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Why Are Black Dogs Adopted Less?

If you follow me on Facebook, chances are you have heard me wax on about the sweet lab mix that we are fostering. Jenna had a rough start. A local no-kill shelter rescued her from a hoarder, where she had spent her first 6 months living in a crate with no freedom at all, so she needs lots of extra love and care.

It’s a good thing that a no-kill shelter rescued her, because, as it turns out, black dogs have it rough out there. Black dogs are often the last adopted and the first in line for euthanization. Shelter and rescue workers call the problem “Black Dog Syndrome,” and experts have a few theories about why black dogs are harder to adopt out than other dogs.

Some think it’s because black dogs look more threatening than other dogs.

Black dogs are also tougher to photograph well. This may seem like a silly reason behind Black Dog Syndrome, but it’s actually a big deal. Many potential owners search shelter websites before coming in to meet the dogs, and a bad photograph can sometimes make or break a dog’s chances of getting adopted.

While skeptics say that Black Dog Syndrome is a myth, rescue and shelter organizations insist that it is all too real. Yes, there are more black dogs out there than lighter-colored dogs, but workers who deal with dog adoptions day in and day out say that they see perfectly adoptable dogs get rejected by potential owners simply because of the color of their coat. USA Today spoke to Inge Fricke, director of the Humane Society in Washington D.C., who said:

…it is not a hoax. There is definitely anecdotal evidence. There haven’t been any definitive studies to absolutely prove that the phenomenon exists but it is something commonly accepted by shelter workers as truth.

Dogs aren’t the only black animals that have a tough time of it. Black cats are harder to adopt out, as well. Like black dogs, black cats are difficult to photograph. There’s also that old superstition that black cats are unlucky. This video from Petopia goes into Black Dog Syndrome a little bit further:

Of course, adopting any animal is a serious commitment, and you shouldn’t go out and adopt a dog if you’re not ready for the extra responsibility. If you’re thinking about adding a new fur kid to your family, though, I hope you’ll consider adopting a black dog! The color of a dog’s coat doesn’t say anything about her personality, and a black dog can be as good a friend as a dog of any other color. Let’s kick Black Dog Syndrome to the curb!

Find Adoptable Pets!
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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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6:04AM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

I had a black she-cat. She sure brought me all the luck in the world during 15 beautiful years. The was the most wondrous cat I ever met. The rejection of black pets is absolutely no mythos, though. Even galgos (martyr dogs from Spain) suffer from this syndrome, and one could think that when you're ready to adopt such a broken angel his/her coat should really hold no importance at all. But... the numbers speak, and prove that the problem exist, even when it comes to dogs that are usually adopted by people really deeply involved in advocacy for their case. Strange, and sad.

6:07AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Weird phenomenon. Thanks for sharing.

6:07AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Weird phenomenon. Thanks for sharing.

3:42AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

I have both a black and blond Labrador and I love them both. They have very different personalities and it is my black Bella who is the really loyal girl. She will not go anywhere without me in view while Caly will hop into any car and go with anyone. I would not hesitate to rescue another black dog if and when the time comes. Something I don't even want to think about now.

1:11PM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Poor sweeties

7:41PM PST on Feb 26, 2013

never knew this.......

8:59AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Maybe its because black is near the bottom of every favorite color survey I could find both in US and global and not because people are ignorant or racist....I'm just sayin

8:56AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Am presently cat sitting a five year old black cat who is Adorable Plus, very loving and teaching my younger nine month old cat the ins and outs of play. All cats are delightful and people should not avoid bringing black cats and dogs home from the shelter. They are marvellous and delightful and have had a splendid black cat in my life years ago.

8:35AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

I could not agree's so true. Totally silly. Both black dogs and cats are often ignored at shelters and i've always thought how ridiculous. I volunteer at my local Humane Society and there are quite a few black cats that have been here for almost 1 year now. It breaks my heart. Black cats and dogs are awesome!!!! I've had black cats all my life and right now out of the 11 cats i have resued,6 are black ones and i tell you these cats are gorgeous,playfull. and so affectionate and contrary to some befief,they model very well for Photos!!!! So please give both black cats and dogs a chance. Great article,thanks very much.

3:01PM PST on Feb 19, 2013

I've rescued many black cats in my time and they photograph well, like panthers. Just put an exotic plant beside one and you have a panther.

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