Q: I want to adopt a dog and was told by a rescue group that black pets had the hardest time finding homes. I love black dogs and fell in love with one but was told by the rescue that they don’t adopt out black pets in the month of October. Have you ever heard of this? If black pets have such a hard time being adopted, why would they make it so hard?
A: It’s absolutely true that black pets (dogs and cats) have a harder time finding homes. In fact, Petfinder, the largest online adoption service, conducted a survey and found that it takes black pets four times longer to find homes than pets of other colors.
This phenomenon is generally referred to as “black dog syndrome” (abbreviated as “BDS”) but applies to cats as well. Large dogs with unclear or “generic” facial features are especially likely to be passed over in shelter settings, especially when the kennels are dimly lit.
What’s more, the negative stereotyping of black animals in popular media undoubtedly influences human decision making as well –– whether or not we think it does. And, as we all know, superstition dictates that black cats are bad luck or worse –– evil incarnate.
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Though dogs are usually not the target of Halloween season pranksters, black cats have historically suffered abuse during this time of year –– usually at the hands of those who consider burning, hanging or otherwise torturing animals an appropriate form of “celebration.”
Which explains why many rescue groups have a blanket policy against placing dogs and cats during this time of the year. It may seem unfair, and in light of the difficulty finding homes for black pets I’d tend to agree. Nonetheless, private rescue groups have the right to choose how, when and to whom they’ll adopt.
In this situation you have a couple of choices: Wait until after Halloween to adopt this pet, find another black pet elsewhere (few municipal shelters have such restrictions), or plead your case more energetically with this rescue group.
If you let them know you adore this pet (come visit him often and bring him toys and a collar), convey your knowledge of BDS, and promise to keep him boarded, crated or otherwise contained during the Halloween festivities, I would hope they’d make an exception.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.