BLACK DOG SYNDROME

THIS IS AN ARTICLE ON BLACK DOG SYNDROME. 

As the founder of an animal welfare organization GPA Charities, I’ve spent the last 12 years involved with rescuing death row dogs from shelters. Everything from walking in and pulling them out of kill shelters, to taking them to vets, to bringing them to our rescue group, to placing them in foster care and working diligently to adopt them. I’ve spent many a weekend at Pet Smart with two dozen dogs trying to get them adopted.

Through all this, one thing became apparent to me. Black Dogs were the least adopted of all the dogs we rescued. They were the least adopted in the shelters we went into as well. We, therefore, had a higher than usual selection of black dogs, versus light colored or mixed color dogs to rescue from our area animal shelters.

What we also found was black dogs languished not only much longer in shelters, but rescue groups as well. Where we could adopt other colors out on average in three months, some black dogs took up to a year…. Some, even more.

So I did some research and found that our experience was not unusual, it was sadly normal. There is a phenomenon and its name is, Black Dog Syndrome (BDS). Black Dog Syndrome is known by shelters and rescue groups throughout America. Numerous respected national organizations have long recognized BDS as an issue that adversely affects the adoption rates of black pets.

So, what exactly is this syndrome? Black Dog Syndrome is a sometimes conscious but most times unconscious mental, emotional bias in people against black dogs, and black cats as well.

Because of this bias, black shelter dogs are the most overlooked, least adopted and one of the most euthanized dogs in our animal shelters.

So, what’s the story? Why are black dogs feared? Why is there this bias? Well, there are many reasons for what is known as “Black Dog Syndrome”, including superstitious fear of black dogs, “old wives’ tales” about black dogs, Black dogs depicted in movies and literature as evil or devilish. A scary, growling black dog can be seen in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Harry Potter series and The Omen.

In a survey, Pet finder the respected national organization where we post our dogs available for adoption, animal shelter and rescue groups reported that most pets are listed for about 3 months, whereas, black dogs and senior or special needs dogs average 12 months on the Pet finder adoption site.

The only real fact, not ignorance, superstition, media sensationalism, or folklore is that black dogs do not photograph well on animal shelters and rescue groups websites, listing pictures of dogs for adoption. This is easily overcome however by simply photographing black dogs in front of blue screens or blue paper, as we have done at our rescue organization Green Pets America.

Now that I spend my time, not in hands-on rescue, but providing education and awareness in animal welfare, I decided to bring Black Dog Syndrome, BDS to the forefront. To that end, we created a non-profit subsidiary Black Dog Syndrome.org. to bring this syndrome to light, in the desire to bring it to an end. The lives of 700,000 black dogs yearly are at stake.

The color of a dog has nothing to do with the dogs’ temperament or personality. Ask any owner of a black dog. Ask me, we have two. Our black dogs are as loving, playful, smart and a joy to be with each day as our other two, non-black dogs.


So what can you personally do to end Black Dog Syndrome?  

  • You can adopt a black dog from your local animal shelter or rescue dog.
  •  Or you can adopt a black dog from a local dog rescue group in your area.
  • You can talk about this bias and encourage friends or family to adopt a black dog.
  • You can educate your community about this syndrome. Educate adults, even school-age kids about BDS! It’s generally an unconscious prejudice and most people will move past it once they’re aware.
  • You can go into your local schools and talk to classes.
  • You can subscribe to our beautiful Black Dog Magazine.
  • You can make a donation to help us educate and create Black Dog Friday shelter adoption programs.
  • And you can visit the BLACK DOG SYNDROME STORE to make a purchase to show the world you love black dogs.


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