October 16, 2022 | General
The myth that black cats bring bad luck has not only prevailed over the years, it now includes black dogs. Because black pets are usually the last ones to find forever homes…
Sadly, shelter and rescue pets with black coats suffer from what is known as “black dog syndrome” or “black cat syndrome.” They are among the last and least likely to find new homes. They languish in shelters longer than pets with lighter coats and are euthanized more often. And if a black pet also happens to be a large breed dog, he’s doubly unlucky.
Shelter professionals have several theories on why the anti-black pet phenomenon exists:
Fortunately, shelters and animal welfare organizations are taking steps to extinguish black dog and cat syndrome. Shelter volunteers recognize housing black pets throughout the facility rather than in ‘clumps’ is helpful. They’re also doing things like putting brightly colored blankets and toys in the kennels of black pets and using colorful neckwear to catch the eye of visitors.
There are also ongoing efforts to encourage prospective adopters to consider a black pet, such as events that offer half-price or even fee-waived adoptions on black animals.
Shelter staff have also discovered that photos of black pets should be taken in well-lit areas of the facility — preferably outdoors on bright, sunny days. In addition, volunteer professional and hobbyist photographers like Maggie Epling1 can make a huge difference in attracting attention to black shelter pets.
Epling, a student at the University of Kentucky who was looking to do something fun and impactful during summer break, reached out to the Pike County Animal Shelter in Pike, Kentucky after learning that homeless animals with good photos were more likely to get adopted. The shelter welcomed her help.
Epling learned from other shelter volunteers that black cats and dogs are often the last to get adopted, so she dedicated herself to ensuring those animals got great pictures.
Among them was Jersey, a calm, well-mannered female one-year-old mixed breed; Blinky, a very energetic female pit bull mix with one eye; Tiny, a silly, energetic small dog with one blue and one brown eye; and Winona, a small Beagle who was the first out the door after her glamour shots were posted on the shelter’s Facebook page.
The Pike County Animal Shelter is in a rural area that isn’t easy to reach, but as soon as Epling’s photos were added to their Facebook page, the phones lit up. Epling believes one of the secrets to her success is that she gets to know each of the dogs and their personality before taking their portrait.