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Finding love online: Humans have been doing it for years. Why not cats and dogs?

Next week, a virtual love extravaganza is hitting the internet. Funky-looking pugs who snore too loudly. Plump, lazy cats who enjoy sunbathing and chatting over coffee. Adorable terriers with origami ears and camera-ready head tilts. Free-spirited kittens with names like Jon Snow, Frappuccino and Hot Cross Buns. A national pet adoption event, with more than 200 animal shelters participating, is happening online May 27-31. And it begs the question, why the hell did we wait so long to do this?

Best Friends has been hosting super adoptions (big adoption events that bring together large numbers of animal welfare groups, adoptable pets and potential adopters in one location) for the last two decades. These wildly successful events save thousands of lives every year and, just as important, help remove barriers to adoption for people looking to add a fuzzy, tail-wagging member to the family. But when we first started hosting them, a lot of people chose fear over faith, preoccupied with what might go wrong rather than the lifesaving potential right in front of their eyes.

Some of our earliest super adoptions were held in the parking lots of shopping malls. I still remember people being horrified at the idea of someone going to the mall looking for a sweater and leaving with a new dog. The reality is that we all find love — our friends, our partners, our pets — in some of the most unexpected places and at unexpected times. That’s a good thing. Because it renews our faith in the endless possibilities the world has to offer and reminds us that a little bit of magic might be waiting just around the corner.

Now, thanks to our friendly neighborhood coronavirus, we’re moving our next super adoption online. And what was once a local event involving dozens of shelters and rescue groups with hundreds of adoptable pets in a physical location is now a nationwide event with hundreds of groups and thousands of adoptable pets in a virtual location. 

We’re doing it in partnership with Adopets and thanks to incredible sponsorship from Wellness (Best Friends’ official pet food sponsor), Fresh Step (Best Friends’ official litter provider), Petco Foundation, HBO Max, 1-800-PetMeds and PAWZ. The Find Love Online super adoption event uses Adopets’ virtual platform to connect potential adopters with homeless pets near them and seamlessly usher them through the adoption process, including providing any needed adoption counseling, completing paperwork and scheduling a safe, convenient hand-off of their new pet. You know, because today’s technology makes that kind of accessible, common-sense experience possible if we dare to use it.

But here’s the important part: No matter how many weeks, months or years it takes for the COVID-19 threat to subside, and for more casual large group events to be safe again, we’re not going to just go back to the way we were doing things and ditch virtual super adoptions. 

Yes, of course, we’ll want to host group events again — because they are seriously fun and involve cool things like pet kissing booths and taco trucks. That’s just awesome. But we’d be out of our minds to abandon the innovation we’re experiencing now that is exponentially increasing our ability to connect adoptable pets with people ready to love them. 

That leads me back to my original question. If we’re willing and able to find homes for pets using this kind of technology, why weren’t we willing to do so before COVID-19 hit? 

So, tell your neighbors, tell your family, tell your co-workers, tell your friends: It doesn’t matter where in the country they live, there’s a chance to find some new four-legged love online next week while also supporting a local animal shelter or rescue group. And afterwards, they can always go onto their favorite retail website and buy a sweater. I like the ones that say, “I want to drink wine and pet dogs” and “Cat hair is my glitter.”

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Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society