What is this “Black Dog Syndrome?” Why is there a stigma attached to black and dark-coated animals? How can this color bias still be prevalent today?
“Black Dog Syndrome” explains how black dogs (and black pets in general) in shelters are adopted at a much lower rate than lighter-coated pets. Although it is true that since black is nature’s dominant color, there will be more black animals in shelters, black-coated animals experience a longer wait for their forever homes than other pets.
In the Middle Ages, black cats were associated with witchcraft and killed along with their owners. It’s not clear whether this superstition transferred to black dogs, but historically they have been categorized as threatening and menacing as well. Then there is the ominous, over-hanging “black cloud,” the unlucky “black cat crossing your path,” the creepy film noir (French for black film), and numerous like phrases that have implanted themselves in the human psyche.
Most of the time, the passing-by the kennels of dark-coated shelter animals is unintentional. It is difficult to see the features of a black animal in its cage. Most dogs have brown eyes and noses which are easily seen on a light animal. Most dogs have dark lips as well. Unless the black dog has his mouth open, it is hard to see anything but a black blob. A black dog or cat can look like a shadow in the back of its cage or kennel.
Since black is nature’s predominant color, there are times when the shelter has what seems like an overabundance of black pets looking for homes. Kennel after kennel houses a black dog; cage after cage contains a black cat. A potential adopter thinks: “Black dog, black dog, another black dog, all the same.” So the black dog or cat watches while light-colored and younger pets find homes.
As a potential adopter, it is up to you to find the right pet for your home and lifestyle. A black pet can be big, little, shy, outgoing, energetic or a couch potato. She may be a wash-and-go pet or require extensive daily grooming. Each black pet has a unique personality as does every pet. If you pass up a black pet just because of the way she looks, you may be missing out on the four-legged love of your life.
If you live in Omaha and are ready to give a black pet a second chance, visit the Nebraska Humane Society at 8929 Fort Street.
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