Black Dog Syndrome

Did you know that black dogs (and cats) are usually the last to be adopted out of shelters, if at all? They call it Black Dog (or Pet) Syndrome.

It’s not an understood phenomenon and there aren’t many statistics on this adoption pattern in shelters but Kim Intino, Director of Animal Sheltering Issues for the Humane Society confirms that “…every person that has worked in a shelter can attest that in shelters, animals with black coats can be harder to adopt out or to even get noticed.”

Some of the working theories to explain the public’s lack of interest seems silly and not possible. One such theory suggest it is the association between black cats and witchcraft. Guilty by association, I mean, they have been catching free rides on broomsticks for centuries. It’s hard to believe someone would actually consider this while making such a serious decision, yet still the black cats remain. A 2002 study found in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science looked at adoption rates in California over a 9 month period and found that black cats were about half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats and two-thirds less likely than white cats. The theory is similar for black dogs. The devil’s dog has been cast in black since…when? forever?

Another theory. Photogenics. Black animals photograph poorly especially in the, often, poor lighting of shelters. (WHAT?!!? Get them animals outside and buy yourself a camera with a flash!!!)

Is it really possible that the “Light versus Dark” and “Good versus Evil” battles are so ingrained in us that we would simply pass by a kennel because of the color of the animals’…fur? Or the picture wasn’t great?

I don’t know. I don’t know why it happens. I only know it does happen. When you visit the PSPCA on Erie Avenue you will notice that the black dogs wear bandanas; the staff’s attempt to make them stand out just a little bit.

Recently a good friend adopted two black dogs from Sacramento shelters and I was so proud and happy. (Not ’cause of me, though. I can’t take the credit. He just kinda rocks.)

So…next time you head to the shelter, keep BDS in mind. There are millions of animals that need homes and love but please keep your eyes, mind, and heart open. You never know, you might look right through your soulmate because of the color of his fur.