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So There’s No Prejudice Against Black Dogs. Oh, Really?

Two new studies say coat color doesn't affect adoption rates in shelters. My experience says that’s total BS. What's yours?

 |  Oct 3rd 2013  |   90 Contributions


Some studies have recently come out saying that the color of a dog’s coat doesn’t matter to people who are looking for a dog to adopt. They state that the old theory that black-coated dogs (and cats!) are more difficult to adopt than lighter color dogs is not true. Well, I’m not sure who they spoke to, and I don’t run an independent marketing research group, but based on my experience as the former president of a local animal shelter: That’s a bunch of hog wash. Dogs with black coats are more difficult to adopt.

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Baby, my black Pomeranian.

According to a recent study by the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, adoption records from two no kill shelters in New York state were reviewed to determine how age, gender, size, breed group, and coat color influenced the length of stay (LOS) of dogs at these shelters. The study found that young puppies had the shortest length of stay, while the LOS among dogs increased as age increased. Based on their findings, coat color and gender were not factors.

Considering only size classifications, medium-size dogs had the greatest LOS, and extra-small dogs and puppies remained in shelters for the least amount of time. Considering only breed groupings, the study found that dogs in the guard group had the greatest LOS and those in the giant group had the shortest LOS.

The lack of effect on the coat color was not expected, nor was the shorter LOS among “fighting” breeds compared with other breed groups. Coat color and breed may have only local effects on LOS that do not generalize to all shelters, including traditional shelters. Understanding the traits of dogs in a specific shelter and the characteristics of the animals desired by adopters are critical to improving the welfare of animals served by that shelter.

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Home dog by Shutterstock.

I’ve been involved in rescue in some way or another for a good portion of my life. I have volunteered at adoption events for numerous rescue organizations. I partnered with a rescue group in every city I visited during my national book tour. And, as stated previously, I was the president of a local no-kill shelter. Through working with animal rescue organizations over these many years, one message rang true: A black dog is not adopted as quickly as a lighter-colored dog.

At the rescue that I ran, we saw consistently that the black and darker-color dogs were passed over in favor of the lighter colored dogs. Now, this isn’t necessarily true for puppies. Everyone loves puppies, no matter what the color of their coat. But for older, black-coated dogs, it was more of a challenge to find their right and perfect forever home. We would often need to place them in the dog runs that are closest to the front entry door in order for them to get noticed. At off-site adoption events, we would place their cages closest to the store’s entry point. Otherwise, they would tend to get overlooked by everyone visiting the shelter or on-site adoption events.

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Boy hugs black puppy by Shutterstock

When speaking to numerous rescue organizations, I found that they, too, would place their black dogs in more prominent locations. They take pictures of the dogs on lighter backgrounds in order for their photos to “pop” when someone sees them on their Internet sites. They also place their photos first on the web pages. Some of the rescues discount the adoption fees for black dogs, since they seemed harder to adopt and tended to stay at the shelter or in foster homes longer. They also have special adoption days just for the black or dark-coated dogs.

Recently the ASPCA conducted a study on what drives people to adopt certain animals. Based on that study, an official of the organization claimed, "Color does not play a role at all."

If you ask me, I would tell you that I just don’t get it. I think all dogs are beautiful no matter what color of coat they have. I had a wonderful black Pomeranian named Baby. She was about 10 years old when someone dumped her at our apartment complex door. She was a timid girl, but very sweet and so easygoing. She became part of our family and lived another five years with us before she made her transition. Was she dumped because she was old or because she was black? I’ll never know.

When I was a youngster, Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers were the dogs most people feared. They had the same bad rap that Pit Bulls have today. I never understood this when I was young and still can’t get my head around it. I always thought Dobermans' and Rottweilers' black coats were beautiful. They had a wonderful sheen to them that always made them look very dapper.

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Black dogs are lovable, too. Woman, dog, and sunset by Shutterstock

I always got along well with the Dobies and Rotties in my neighborhood. I only saw one encounter when a Doberman nearly bit one of the neighborhood kids. The kid would always tease him while the Doberman was behind the fence at their home. One day he stuck his hand through the fence and the Doberman nipped him. He went home crying like a baby, though it was merely a scratch. It served the kid right since he always antagonized the dog. The dog didn’t like him at all. Come to think of it, I never liked that kid much either.

We should choose the dogs in our lives based on the lifestyle of the family and the heart connection we have with a certain dog. The color of a dog’s coat should be the least of our concerns. Wake up, folks!

Do you think black dogs are harder to adopt? Have you ever adopted a black dog? Share your stories in the comments.

About Tim Link: All-American guy, loves to rock out to Queen while consuming pizza and Pinot Noir, prefers to associate with open minded people who love all critters, considered to be the literal voice for all animals –- author, writer, radio host, Reiki Master, animal communicator and consultant. Visit him at www.wagging-tales.com.

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