Coronavirus Chicago: PAWS offers 'virtual pet adoptions' during stay-at-home order

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Humans aren't the only affected by the stay-at-home order. It's a whole new world for pets, too - especially those looking for a new home.

How much is that doggie in the window? Well, they're actually up for adoption, but not in the usual way. PAWS Chicago is now doing what's called "virtual adoptions."

"Adoptees used to come into our crisis centers and look around for new animals," said Celene Mielcarek, director of PAWS Chicago volunteers. "Now they are looking online at the pets that are available and they are making that match over the phone."

The main difference is that you can't just drop into the adoption center and roam around looking at the different dogs and cats. You find your potential pet strictly on the website then apply. They received 1,200 online applications in just one week. The hopeful families invited to come on down.

"We prepared the kids for things like the PAWS adopters being in PPE masks, so that was not a surprise to them," adoptive pet parent Shannon Sheehan said. "We were able to meet Nico on the roof of the PAWS Adoption Center, which gave us great space to spread out. We were the only family up there."

Not sure about adopting? There have been a slew of people fostering lately, giving animals a temporary home.

"He is so great to have around," pet foster parent Katie said. "He reminds us that we need to get outside and walk and get fresh air. We love that he brings us so much joy and comfort during this time."

"It's a great time to take in or foster a pet so many people are home right now," Mielcarek said. "There's more time to spend with that animal. There's more time to bond with animal and train that animal."

But all of this does come with a caution.

"We want to tell the public to think about what life is going to be like whenever we go back to our normal lives," Mielcarek added. "Is it a good time to foster an animal or adopt an animal?"

They say it's great that people are stepping up for pets, and one more sign that we're all in this together.
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