Virtual pet adoptions emerge in Lansing amid virus outbreak
By NATE ATKINS, Lansing State Journal
LANSING, May 17, 2020 (AP): The animals stare out from photos on
a website, reduced to a name, a gender and an age. They hope
this is the time you will click to learn more.
The Capital Area Humane Society in Lansing has 19 pets available
for adoption, ranging from dogs to cats to guinea pigs. They
can't have visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, so
they'll hope to find homes through a virtual adoption.
For some of them, this could be their best chance yet, the
Lansing State Journal reported.
Thanks to donations from the Bissell Pet Foundation, the Capital
Area Humane Society is offering pet adoptions until May 17 for
$25. That is down from the standard rate of $175 for dogs and
$50 for cats.
The donations come through a movement called ``Empty the
Shelters,'' a process that has been easier than some in the
adoption community saw coming.
When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered most businesses to
close in late March,
the animals stuck in shelters largely went to live with foster
care families to wait out an unpredictable period.
Then curbside pickup became an option at stores and restaurants,
and animal shelters discovered they had a chance to treat
adoptions that way, too.
``We obviously love people to come in and spend a good amount of
time with the animals and to pick and choose from a variety of
animals,'' said Julia Wilson, president and CEO of the Capital
Area Humane Society. ``We're just not in a place right now where
we can allow those kinds of freedoms within our facility.
``We had to get creative or completely stop what we are doing.''
The alternative has been virtual adoptions. Interested owners
sort through available pets on the website (cahs-lansing.org),
where they can click on a pet to see more photos and learn a
They can learn that Hoolu, a large 8½-year-old mixed
breed, is a ``sweet old man'' who loves to learn new tricks.
They can meet Sophie, a 9-year-old cat with long grey and white
fur who prefers naps and quiet environments.
These descriptions are meant to start a phone conversation with
shelter staff about the animal's living and veterinary history.
Interested owners can then schedule a time to meet the animal
and, if they wish, to bring it home.
No animal operates in a cage the way it would in a home, which
always makes matching pet to owner an inexact process. But since
these animals went to foster care for at least two weeks
starting in March, shelter staff have gained a better
understanding of how they will operate around children and in
apartments and houses.
The animals got to taste what it's like to live in a home with
people, making them more ready to step into that environment.
And these days, people are home so much of the time. More than
1.3 million Michigan residents have filed for unemployment over
the past seven weeks. Many others are finding ways to work or
take classes from home. As of May 10, more than 47,000 residents
had tested positive for the coronavirus, with many recovering
For the pain and struggle the virus has caused, quarantining has
brought a rekindled relationship between many people and their
pets. It has added time to house-train a puppy.
It's created a break in the busiest of lives.
At the start of the virus, Wilson couldn't help but fear the
worst. When people get sick or lose income, they sometimes have
to give pets up for adoption. Around 65% of the Capital Area
Humane Society's animals come from these types of surrenders,
But animal drop-offs have not been higher than normal, Wilson
said. The shelter had one instance where it had to send staff
into a home to retrieve the pets of owners who were hospitalized
with the virus.
Some people need pets now more than ever. During quarantine,
more than 3,000 pet adoptions have taken place through the
Bissell Pet Foundation.
``You have to think of people who live by themselves: They're
right now isolated and the only companionship they really have
is their pets,'' Wilson said.
After weeks of uncertainty, the animals at her shelter are ready
to fill that void in someone's life.