GRANT PARPAN PHOTO
Kent Animal Shelter volunteers Cindy Banks (left) and Kym and Alyssa DiLello hold up pooches for webcam chats during the shelter’s online adoption event Saturday.
Kent Animal Shelter volunteer Kym DiLello held up Billy, a 3-year-old miniature pinscher-chihuahua mix, in front of the lens of a webcam so he could have a virtual meeting with a potential adopter.
The pup squirmed in Ms. DiLello’s arms at the Calverton shelter as she tried to describe his personality to the prospective pet owner, who was all the way in Chicago.
“He’s a little standoffish at first, but he warms up pretty quickly,” she said. “He likes to sit on your lap and watch television.”
The nonprofit, no-kill shelter launched the website animalroulette.com Saturday as a way for those considering adoption to get to know a pet before a face-to-face meeting. It’s the first shelter in the nation to use the new product.
The site allows potential owners to see the dogs and cats in a low-stress environment via webcam to get a better feel for their personalities, said site designer Michael Ayalon of East Meadow. Nearly 200 people from all over the country chatted with the pooches at Kent Saturday.
Mr. Ayalon, a pet website designer by trade who donated his time to develop the site, said he hopes other shelters across the country will use animalroulette.com to facilitate the adoption process.
“I think that any shelter can do this,” he said.
The technology, which animal lovers across the country can also use to chat with other pet owners, is now available to any shelter. Saturday’s event was an introduction to the new service, which Kent will make a permanent addition to its adoption process.
“Our biggest hope is that it will increase adoptions,” said shelter director Pam Green.
If someone is interested in chatting with a pet, they must go on the site and set up an appointment. A shelter volunteer will then call at the arranged time to video chat. Afterward, adopters who are serious about the pet come to the shelter and fill out an application.
The site’s format is loosely based on chatroulette.com, a website that pairs random strangers from around the world in webcam conversations.
“It’s very useful for people that don’t live that close,” Ms. Green said.
Mr. Ayalon said he got the idea to design the website after searching for a dog for his children. He said the process of discovering the animal’s personality could be overwhelming in a kennel, when new visitors and other animals could upset a potential pet.
“It was important for us to figure out if this particular animal was a good fit for our family,” he said.
Ms. Green added that a virtual interaction is much more telling of what a pet is like than seeing a photograph on a web page.
“When you see a picture, what do you really know?,” she said