A good friend of Suzy Armstrong's walked into her office last December and mentioned that she had recently dropped off a check for the Animal Protection Society of Orange County.
Armstrong, who has been an APS board member for six years, asked whether she'd gone to the APS sanctuary on Nicks Road to do that. No, her friend said, she'd gone to the APS shelter off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Just one problem: APS doesn't have a shelter off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The animal shelter there is run by Orange County's Animal Services department, a completely separate entity.
APS used to manage the shelter off MLK, under contract with the county, but moved out in 2004 and opened its own facility on Nicks Road in western Orange County.
A great many people, though, have continued to confuse the two operations. Armstrong recognized that if even her close friend didn't realize that APS -- a private nonprofit organization -- and the county shelter were two different groups, it was time to clear up the misperception.
So she voted with the rest of the board to adopt a new name. Starting two weeks from now, after the Jambalaya Jam on Oct. 18, APS will officially begin using its new name, Paws4Ever.
For Armstrong, the name change was a step she came to reluctantly; she had resisted when the idea was initially suggested by Perry Colwell from the Executive Service Corps, a group of volunteers who donate their time to non-profits.
"I thought, 'We have been the APS since 1962,'" Armstrong said. "We could never change our name. We eat, breathe and sleep this."
"I was a holdout. A few others felt the same."
But, convinced by the encounter with her friend, she and the others joined the majority.
Tracy Carroll, executive director of the APS, said the name change is just a rebranding.
"We are not going to be any different," Carroll said.
Orange County opened its animal shelter off of MLK (then Airport Road) in 1979. The Animal Protection Society of Orange County was contracted to manage it. In 2004, APS's contract expired and the county took over running the shelter.
APS moved to Nicks Road and opened its facility there that October.
"We were done being who we were and were now moving forward," Armstrong said. "We looked at how we could do this positively and build on our strengths and carve ourselves a new place in the community."
But many in the community didn't understand the difference; even now many people refer to the county shelter as "APS."
"I am out in the public all the time," said Sharon Harkavy, who does community outreach, education and special events for APS. "Every single time through the entire duration at every event, I have to explain we are not the same facility as the Orange County Animal Shelter."
APS invited Dave Alsobrooks, a long-time APS volunteer who is a professional marketer and graphic designer, to brainstorm about how the group could better market itself.
"I found there was a lot of confusion about what its identity is," Alsobrooks said. "It was hard for them as an organization to pinpoint what they are, what their core values, mission and what they do is. They all said the same things but said it in a different way."
The staff, the board and Alsobrooks worked together to create a new, focused image. The result is the new name and tag line: "Educate. Care. Adopt. Train."
Harkavy said she hope the new approach will help people understand the range of services the organization offers.
"The two facilities have different functions in the community," she said. "The shelter takes in animals from the public and provides animal control. Our facility's function is about educating the public about animal welfare issues, adopting out animals in our care and offering extensive dog training programs so we can increase the likelihood that people will bond for life with dogs and solve problems that might otherwise have the animals returned to shelters."
APS does not take animals in from the public but pulls them from shelters in Orange and nearby counties.
The new name will emblazon the t-shirts created for the 3rd Annual Walk for Animal Protection at Southern Village on Nov. 1.
Sarah Washburn, development director of the APS, said that it will take a while for the new name to slip off the tongue, but she feels the new name truly exemplifies the group's mission.
"It really emphasizes to our donors what we do more clearly, and it will help people remember what their contribution is going to do for animals," Washburn said.