WINDSOR, ONT. -- Virtual pet adoption at the Windsor-Essex County Humane Society is considered an “overwhelming” success since its inception this past spring thanks to COVID-19.

Staff at the shelter say before the pandemic, the idea of adopting out animals through a virtual process was relatively unheard of.

“When I looked at his picture, it was kind of love at first sight,” said Madelaine Merner of Stoney Point who virtually adopted her Rhodesian Ridgeback Hound ‘Ruben.’

It’s been about three months since Ruben, made the big move to small-town Stoney Point. 

“I just kind of kept my eyes on the website,” Merner said. “Their dogs that they had went very fast!”

The four-year-old pup was put up for virtual adoption in August, the same time Merner was looking for a new furry friend.

“It’s very nerve racking not meeting the dog first because things could go well or things could go very wrong,” Merner said.

Luckily that wasn’t the case, the Windsor-Essex County Humane Society saw to it.

“They set everything up so that if the dog doesn’t work out you can return it or they have training options, they can do classes with you and what not,” Merner said.

Executive Director, Melanie Coulter said adoption numbers are down this year, despite a large increase in adoption interest since the pandemic onset.

“It’s actually working better than the adoptions when people come in and see the animals in person,” she said.

To date in 2020, the humane society found homes for 2,285 animals, with more than 1,700 of these adoptions being "virtual".  This past Monday was dubbed “Cyber Meownday” to acknowledge the new process.

“Our animals have always been posted online, but now the application process is online,” Coulter said. “The counselling happens by phone or computer, and then the person comes and picks up the animal.”

She said animal surrenders have also decreased since many people started working from home. She also credits the closed border to a drop in dog adoptions, since their U.S. partners can’t cross.

“We’re definitely going to look at continuing with some form of online application even after the pandemic is over,” Coulter said.