DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When Dallas Animal Services shut its doors to the public in March, the shelter was overcapacity and overwhelmed.

“It was scary. It really was,” says general manager Jordan Craig. “We completely turned our model on its head. Our goal to save lives was to get people here into our building and suddenly we couldn’t do that.”

Eight months later, she says the year’s brought some unexpected successes.

For the first time ever, the shelter’s live release rate is over 90%.

That’s a significant improvement from 61% four years ago, reflecting a continuing decline in the number of dogs and cats euthanized.

“It’s such a benchmark for the industry,” said Craig.

The milestone comes as the shelter has transitioned all adoptions online.

A new online tool allows people to search for pets by size, breed, or age.

They’re able to schedule phone calls to ask questions about an animal they’re interested in and can watch live videos of the dogs’ playtime on Facebook to get a sense of their personality and behavior.

Adoptable dogs (Dallas Animal Services website)

“The first time people interact with them is when they pick them up,” said DAS employee, John Zook.

While that may seem daunting, the shelter says it’s seeing fewer adopted animals returned.

They’ve also seen a big increase in people wanting to foster pets during the pandemic, even large dogs which can be the hardest to place.

“You got to do something nice with your time,” said Nick Sablone, whose family works with the nonprofit Dallas Pets Alive.

He’s given dozens of dogs this year a temporary home and seen a spike in the number of others wanting to do the same.

“People, they work from home, so they can actually watch the animal and have time to take care of the animal,” he said.

In stressful times, he says, it’s nice to have a pet to care for.

“It keeps your mind off everything,” he said.

You may just find that new companion helping care for you, too.

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