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Is It Because Of The Color Of My Fur?

Black dog discrimination, that is. There is actually a name, Black Dog Syndrome, for this phenomenon showing black male dogs are harder to adopt out....

Horst Hoefinger  |  Dec 9th 2008


Black dog discrimination, that is. There is actually a name, Black Dog Syndrome, for this phenomenon showing black male dogs are harder to adopt out.

At least that’s the way it used to be, it appears to be changing according to a recent article.

In 2007, PetPoint collected data from more than 700 adoption agencies, totaling approximately 380,000 adoptions, and discovered that although black animals do take longer to be placed with adoptive families than other groups, the difference for black dogs amounts to little more than a day. And happily, all of the black dogs in the data pool eventually found homes.

Betsy Saul, co-founder of PetFinder, agrees that there is no longer a significant difference, at least in the more progressive shelters, for the time it takes black dogs to be adopted. But this delay can still have hugely negative consequences for the animals. “A one-day difference may not seem like a lot, but if it happens to be the seventh day, in some shelters that black dog could be euthanized.”

Generally speaking Betsy Saul says BDS tends to have a greater impact on BIG black dogs (BBDS). “And it isn’t so much about people being afraid of them,” she says. “It’s ‘Can you see me?’ With the little, white fluffy dogs, BAMO! They’re right there. The black ones just blend in to the background.”

A number of factors contribute to Black Dog Syndrome. It could be in part people thinking the dogs have a stigma attached, due to their negative portrayal in movies and books. Or because in adoption photographs they don’t stand out as well as the other lighter animals, making them less noticeable, and therefore less likely to get adopted.

Knowledge of these biases has motivated many shelter workers and volunteers to put extra energy into getting their black dogs and cats noticed, including targeted adoption campaigns, tying bandannas or ribbons around their necks and placing brightly colored blankets and toys in their living areas.

Saul largely attributes the dwindling discrimination against black dogs to these efforts. “We are at the mid-point of positive change, she says. “But we need to stay vigilant about this issue for the change to continue.”

If you’re interested in learning more about BDS there’s an interesting site, Black Pearl Dogs, that you should stop by. It’s very informative, and has some great inspirational stories that tug at the heart strings.

* The black beauty pictured is Blackie, how apropos.