CHICAGO (CBS) — Some Chicagoans are adding to their families during the stay-at-home order for the coronavirus pandemic.

Local shelters are seeing more and more interest in fostering and adopting pets – something CBS 2’s Tara Molina learned is happening virtually now.

PAWS Chicago averages about 100 pet adoptions per week. This past week, they got 1,200 virtual adoption applications.

One of them is the Johnson family’s. They met their golden-mix puppy, Lupin, for the first time on Tuesday.

The family of five was among the first to go through the virtual adoption process with PAWS Chicago.

“We knew we had to meet him and then once you meet him, you have to him,” said Scott Johnson.

Virtual adoption is a brand new process and safety effort to keep adoptions going while minimizing contact during the State of Illinois’ now-extended stay-at-home order.

They applied online and went through the entire process there, and over the phone, up to the point in the adoption center where they picked up the puppy.

“Very limited amount of people, practicing social distancing,” said Jennifer Johnson. “It was more about meeting him.”

“I think just having his energy and being able to hold him provides a positive reaction from people,” added Scott Johnson, “and especially during this time, that’s a great thing to have.”

Sarah McDonald of PAWS Chicago emphasized that the shelter has several safety precautions in place.

She also told us the need of vulnerable pets is greater than ever before. – making their new virtual process important, because the more animals they find homes for, the more they can take in.

“Dogs and cats don’t stop needing our help, even in times of pandemic,” McDonald said. “We are so thankful to remain open, to find innovative ways to keep processes in place, and keep finding wonderful homes for dogs and cats that need us.”

With most of the process happening online now, shelters still want to urge anyone experiencing any symptom of COVID-19 to hold off on meeting a pet and stay home.

For PAWS Chicago’s virtual adoption link, click here.

Meanwhile, Chicago Animal Care and Control said in a statement that it is also trying to facilitate pet adoptions amid the pandemic.

“Over the last two weeks, the Department has received hundreds of inquiries to adopt or foster our shelter animals,” Chicago Animal Care and Control said in a statement. “Furthermore, we’ve decreased our shelter population by three-fold compared to this same time last year, with special help from our rescue partners who have transferred animals into their care and placed most of them into foster homes.

The agency continued: “The Department is always interested in finding the quickest way possible for the shelter animals to go back to their owners, to adopters, to one of our rescue partners, or to a foster home. CACC continues to schedule visits with pre-approved adoption applicants at the shelter between 12 – 6 p.m. daily.”

Tara Molina