Black Dog Syndrome: Help Save a Pitch Pooch!

Of the muted rainbow assortment of colors dogs come in these days, those who are black have the hardest time getting adopted. They'll languish in...

Last Updated on August 15, 2011 by Dogster Team

Of the muted rainbow assortment of colors dogs come in these days, those who are black have the hardest time getting adopted. They’ll languish in their shelter cages day after day, week after week (if they’re lucky enough to not be euthanized first), and watch as their brown, yellow, red, white and other color neighbors go off happily to new homes.

A black dog may be the sweetest, friendliest dog in the shelter, but because of his color alone, he may well be passed over until the clock hits the deadline and he must make room for another dog. Each year hundreds of thousands of black dogs and cats are killed for no other reason than because they’re not the right color. This phenomenon even has a name: Black Dog/Cat Syndrome.

The reason behind it has nothing to do with racism. And while the unfortunate notion that black dogs are unlucky or more dangerous plays some role in the syndrome, experts think the main reason black dogs are harder to place is more likely that they don’t attract our attention. (Black cats may suffer more from the “unlucky” superstition.) Pitch pooches don’t stand out. Their faces are less easy to see, and even pleading eyes and the plaintive “please take me home” expressions can be lost on a black dog’s dark face.

Black dogs suffer even online, on adoption websites. Black dogs are notoriously difficult to photograph. Check out this photo of the black puppy on the right. He’s cute as can be, but he kind of looks like a black blob in the photo. Ironically, this photograph was used on a well-meaning person’s Flickr photostream to attract people to adopt black dogs.

Fortunately, more rescue organizations are trying to do something to remedy the plight of black dogs and cats. The Best Friends Animal Society is hoping to help thousands of black pets find forever homes starting today. During its Back in Black adoption event, which runs from August 15 to September 17, 2011, anyone who adopts a black pet from a participating shelter gets 50 percent off adoption fees. The list of shelters isn’t terribly extensive, but at least it helps get people thinking about the plight of black dogs and cats.

Dogsters, even if you don’t adopt a black dog during this event, maybe you could help your local shelter learn about how to better promote black dogs online. There are many web tutorials on how to photograph black dogs so their features stand out. This one at is very helpful. It’s astounding that something so simple can mean the difference between life and death…

(For an enjoyable photo essay book about a family who struggled for years to photograph their black dog as anything but a black triangle, black blog, or black squiggle, check out this review of a book called In Almost Every Picture #9.)

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