Black Dog Syndrome
As Executive Director and founder of a dog rescue nonprofit, Green Pets America Charities I have spent the last 12 years involved with rescuing 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 phenomena and its named, 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 conscious and 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 or media and folklore bias 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 Cause to get people educated, aware of BDS and get Black Dogs adopted into loving homes. 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 do?
You can adopt a black shelter or rescue dog.
You can talk about this sad bias and encourage friends or family to adopt a black dog.
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.
Subscribe to the FREE, Black Dog Friday Daily Dog News.
Make a donation of whatever you can afford to, http://BlackDogFriday.org to help a rescue group rescue, vet, feed, put into foster care, train, then adopt a black dog into a loving home.
Visit the Black Dog Friday store at http://cafepress.com/blackdogfriday. Make a purchase to show the world you love black dogs
Remind people it’s not the color of the dog, but the size of her heart that is important.
Steven Monahan, Founder – BlackDogFriday.org