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Least Adopted, Most Euthanized
‘Black Dog Syndrome’ and Adoption
It is a common experience amongst shelter workers to bear witness to the adoption of brightly patterned animals well before their black shelter mates. Both black cats and dogs are less than half as likely to be adopted than colorful ones. Speculation is that these animals do not photograph well on adoption materials or are intrinsically linked to superstition.
With dark animals, it is much harder to discern their facial expressions and make an emotional connection with potential adopters.
To help increase adoption rates, some shelters are working hard to correctly photograph these animals. Others have taken to giving them distinct personalities through costumes, dynamic back stories, and taking the opportunity to place them strategically in more visible locations in the kennel for adopters to see them.
Black Dog Syndrome
This situation is often referred to as Black Dog Syndrome. However, some lucky black dogs seem to escape this syndrome, with breed trumping their dark coloration. Poodles, especially, are favored. A study was conducted by PhD psychologist Lucinda Woodward et al, and published in ‘Society and Animals’ in early 2012. In summary, they found that breed had a significant effect on participant’s perception of the dogs, but color did not. “As a matter of fact, in a study looking at breed versus color effect, black labs were rated as significantly more friendly, less dominant and more submissive dogs of dogs of seven other breeds, with only the Golden retriever rated more highly.” Black Poodles are amongst the highest adoption rates, finding homes much more frequently.
Sadly other breeds that do not fit so easily into these categories and are more than twice as likely to be euthanized in the shelter system. “Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., blames part of it on typecasting. "If you think of any movie with a mean, devil dog, it's always a black dog, and if you see a witch in a movie, they always have a black cat."”
Many organizations have created unique ways to highlight these animals. Websites such as blackpearldogs and startseeingblackdogs have draw attention to Black Dog Syndrome work tirelessly to bring awareness to future adopters.
Find Out What Every Shelter Knows
While black cats may not be bad luck, in shelters they are just unlucky
Rescue organizations are coming up with creative ways to raise awareness about the adoption of black animals, whose adoption rates are far lower than animals with bright markings. Some shelters hold special adoption events for black cats and dogs, with incentives like lower adoption fees and two-for-one adoption days. They also make sure the animals are taken out of their cages to meet potential owners as a way of encouraging adoption.
Volunteer photographers are taking on the challenge of illuminating the animal’s best attributes. Often during the intake process the animal is photographed. This is often the most stressful time for a rescued animal, therefore fear and discomfort tend to permeate these photos.
‘Second Chance Photos’ is dedicated to having professional photographers photography the animals in local shelters to improve the chance of adoption: “Second Chance Photos (SCP) believes every homeless pet should be represented with a positive, professional photograph, offering a glimpse into their unique personality in hopes to make a connection with potential adopters. ”Launched by photographer Seth Casteel of Little Friends Photo in Los Angeles, ‘One Picture Saves Campaign’ is a free, nationwide, nonprofit program.
Art for Animals' Sake is an Associated Program of Shunpike.
About Shunpike: Shunpike is the 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that fuels innovation in the arts by building productive partnerships, cultivating leadership and providing direct services to arts groups of all kinds.
Learn more at www.shunpike.org