It’s an animal party! Larissa Wohl is the resident “pet rescue expert” at the Hallmark Channel, where she helps “show the world that rescue animals are the best option.” Through shows like Adoption Ever After, Larissa helps lonely animals find their forever homes. As pet fostering rates skyrocket, we asked Larissa about the best practices for first-time pet owners, and what to do if you want your own snuggle buddy right now.

How long have you been rescuing animals?
I grew up doing it. My mom was a huge animal lover and our family would always get calls about new puppies that needed homes, because everyone knew my mom had such a big heart for it. I didn’t realize that wasn’t what everyone did.

How did you go from TV producer to “pet rescue expert” at the Hallmark Channel?
My best friend worked for Home & Family. She told me about an opening as a producer there, and [I got the job on her recommendation]. After years of doing that, they wanted to up their [animal] rescue content, and make it their mission. So I asked the network to help out, and it grew from there.

How have animal shelters been affected by COVID-19?
Mostly less people are adopting. And because animal shelters are government run, they have to accept anything and everything that comes through their doors, and they can’t handle the influx of animals. The fact is, people don’t like going to shelters regardless but especially now when you have to go online and make an appointment.

Is COVID-19 safety an adoption concern right now?
I’m not a vet, but I’ve talked to quite a few of them and done research on my own. What I understand is there is a very, very, very, very small chance that an animal, especially a domestic pet, can pick up COVID-19. That said, it does not appear, as of now, that animals can give it to humans. You need to look under the layers when you see those kinds of headlines.

Are you fostering animals right now?
Yes! I’ve fostered three animals during this time. When I bring them home, I always give them a big bath with animal-safe shampoo, and I disinfect their items, because those items are more likely to transmit the virus than the dog or cat. Animals bring us much more good than harm… we’re in a place of needing love and comfort and so are they.

Say we can’t adopt right now. How else can we help from our homes?
You can share images from rescue accounts to get animals in front of more eyes. You can also donate via the shelter’s website or Amazon Wish List, where you can choose what your donation is going toward. Or just check in with your neighbors, especially elderly neighbors who might need help walking their pets…

Do you have advice for someone who is adopting for the first time?

1. My biggest tip is to base your adoption on your lifestyle. People will rescue a dog because it’s cute, without factoring in what the animal actually needs. Someone who is gone nine hours of the day and wants to come home and relax should get an older lap dog. If you get up and run or go hiking, get a working dog, like a Husky or Collie.

2. Understand that adopting is a process. You have to fill out an application and do home visits; they want to check that you have the means to adopt. Don’t take that personally, they just want to make sure you will love the animal as much as they do.

3. When you bring your animal home, they know nothing! Give it time. It can take months sometimes for them to get acclimated and feel safe in their new home.