Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Black Dog Syndrome

Via USA Today - Shelter workers call it the "Black Dog Syndrome": Black dogs and cats are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized.

There are no statistics, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence and many possible explanations, ranging from superstitions like the notion that black cats are bad luck, to a simple logistical problem: Black animals are hard to photograph well, and are therefore hard to advertise. To combat the problem, shelters have come up with a variety of creative measures, from reducing adoption fees to improving the quality of the photos.

"Overwhelmingly, we hear from the shelter and rescue groups that black dogs, especially the big black dogs, and black cats take longer to get adopted," said Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach for, the country's largest online pet adoption database.

Some have called Black Dog Syndrome a hoax, but Inge Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C., insists "it is not a hoax. There is definitely anecdotal evidence. There haven't been any definitive studies to absolutely prove that the phenomenon exists but it is something commonly accepted by shelter workers as truth."

Some in the adoption business think there may simply be more black dogs and cats than animals of other colors. Others think the animals may be wrongly perceived as menacing.

Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., blames part of it on typecasting. "If you think of any movie with a mean, devil dog, it's always a black dog, and if you see a witch in a movie, they always have a black cat."

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  1. This is sad, it makes me angry. I love black cats, some of my Twitter pals have/are black cats, They are fun, feisty and a delight to own.

  2. Wish we could stomp out this perception of a black anipal. I'm black (and white) and the most loveable kitty M and D have ever had.

  3. We would love for some groups to get together and pull some numbers to see if this is true or not (since lots of bigger groups are now computerized and can do stuff like this). Mom says after volunteering for several years, she does believe it. In fact, she has heard more than one person say they don't want that "black" cat - no matter how nice the kitty. sigh..... Of course, having tried to photograph our house panther, she can agree to the hard to get pictures thing. :)

  4. I've heard about this before and it makes me so sad. I know that several of my friends that recently adopted animals picked black animals on purpose. Thank you for getting the word out about this.

  5. I'm always struggling to get good pictures of Buster, so I can understand how this might happen. So many people fall in love with a picture rather than looking for the pet that best suits their lifestyle. It's sad - it would be great if people would focus on the attributes that will make the relationship successful, which have nothing to do with the pet's color.

  6. I cannot believe this. I have a black pug and find it strange that fawn pugs are so much more popular than black pugs. I have nothing against fawns, but black pugs are so awesome and beautiful. I also used to have two black cats. Strange...