Black Dogs & Black Cats: Animal Shelter Workers Say They Are Last to Be Adopted, First to Be Euthanized
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on October 8, 2011
As the owner of a delightful black cat, I found this news story alarming:
Reported by NZ Herald News, Colour bias puts black pets out in cold:
Animal shelter workers in the United States call it the “Black Dog Syndrome”: black dogs and cats are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanised.
There are no statistics, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence and many possible explanations, ranging from superstitions such as 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 Petfinder.com, 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, insists it is not. “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,” she said.
Some in the adoption business think there may be more black dogs and cats than animals of other colours. Others think the animals may be wrongly perceived as menacing.
Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Centre in Rancho Santa Fe, California, 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.”
Shelters changed lighting, used light-coloured blankets, and even dressed the animals up to try to get better photos for websites, ads and fliers, Fricke said.
Photographer Seth Casteel of Little Friends Photo in Los Angeles says any shelter pet can pose a photo challenge, but black ones top the list.
“I hear about Black Dog Syndrome all the time,” said Casteel.
“To photograph a black dog or cat effectively, you want to capture personality, important physical traits and details and have the photo be in focus. The key is lighting and shutter speed.”