Animal rescue groups utilize virtual dog adoptions

As the coronavirus pandemic affects every aspect of our lives, one silver lining of the outbreak has been a dramatic increase in animal adoptions.

Rescue organizations are reporting skyrocketing adoption numbers, with shelter-in-place orders keeping adults home from work and children home from school.

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Tara Zurawski, with Project Second Chance, says not only is her group seeing a spike in puppy adoptions, but they're also finding more homes for adult dogs and harder-to-adopt breeds such as pit bulls.

According to Zurawski, “Applications have increased at least by 20 times and we’re getting applications in before dogs even arrive and we’ve posted them on Pet Finder.”

The non-profit rescue rehabilitates homeless animals from Puerto Rico and finds them "forever homes" in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Project Second Chance has adjusted their practices significantly, relying heavily on social media to introduce dogs through photos and videos.

They now conduct interviews with potential pet-owners via FaceTime or Skype and when they do meet in person, they follow all CDC guidelines, wearing gloves and custom masks, staying 6 feet away, and keeping the animals on a 10 foot leash.

During an adoption meet-up in Old Town Alexandria on Wednesday, a new owner said she'd been waiting to adopt for along time, but the shelter-in-place gave her family the right opportunity.

Emily Joy Pacheco told FOX 5, “We were waiting for the right time, so that definitely helps, being home and being able to potty train, that definitely helps, but we were already committed before everything else was going on.”

These types of innovative adoption procedures are being seen all across the region and the nation.  

Many city and county-run shelters are also conducting what they call "virtual adoptions," where prospective pet-owners can view animals online, then schedule a virtual meet-and-greet.

However, shelters warn that they are operating with limited staff, so they encourage the public to visit their website first and ask that you please do not call.

Gina Hardter, with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, says some of the measures have worked so well, they may continue to use them after the virus has subsided.

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Hardter told FOX 5, “One of our first adoptions was actually to a couple, both of them were deaf and because we were doing chats on Zoom, we were actually able to type to them, which made the communication process much easier for all of us.  So we think that it could be beneficial in certain circumstances.”

Rescue groups advise that while this is a great time to adopt, prospective pet owners must have a plan in place for when things eventually go back to normal.

They say, now is the time to coordinate dog walkers, feeding schedules, a veterinarian and doggy daycare, and keep in mind how much it will cost.

The Animal Welfare League also suggests spending some time away from your pet, so the separation won't be as painful when you finally do go back to work.