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True or False: Black Dogs and Cats are Less Likely to be Adopted

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October 2014
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Groups across the country dispute the idea that black pets are adopted less frequently than their other colored peers.  Is the phenomenon (in dogs known as “Big Black Dog Syndrome”) a threat shelters and rescues should be concerned with? Or is the thought that black animals are less desirable fueled by the fact that black animals are simply more populous than other colors?

Kim Saunders, head of shelter outreach for Petfinder.com told ABC News that black dogs and cats tend to be the last ones adopted by shelters, resulting in higher euthanasia rates for black pets.  Whether it’s their “normal” appearance, the superstitions surrounding them, or simply their high numbers, if true, the plight of black animals is gaining recognition in both the media, and in shelters.  There is little hard research that has been conducted on this phenomenon as far as dog adoptions are concerned.  Most research focuses on breed and age in accordance with adoption rates – leaving color completely out of the equation.  Black cats have a more poplar stigma to overcome and have had more research devoted to their struggle.  According to a UC Berkeley study, black cats are unfairly stereotyped and far less likely than the tabbies, calicos, and lighter cats to be adopted at shelters.  UC Berkeley found that orange or Siamese cats are usually adopted within their first day at a shelter. In comparison, black cats can wait for months to find adopters – or be euthanized in the meantime.

The ASPCA takes a different stance on this topic.  Vice President of Shelter Research Dr. Emily Weiss told “Today” that “BBDS” is nothing but a myth.  She states that shelter workers providing anecdotal evidence for “BBDS” are used to seeing more black dogs – leading them to believe they are less likely to be adopted.  A study conducted by the ASPCA observed traits adopters focused on and found that color did not play a role.  Weiss claims that this busts the myth completely.  Another study conducted by Dr. Patricia McConnell observed data collected from Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wisconsin.  Her research found that size had an impact on which dogs were adopted, but color did not have an impact.

Many shelters and rescues are taking steps to highlight black animals in their care in hopes that they will be chosen to join families around the country.  Many shelters host events such as “Black Friday,” lowering adoption fees of black animals for a period of time.  The program director of the SPCA of Triad conducted an “Adopt Your Own Mini Panther” Campaign – taking the public’s passion for the Carolina Panthers and spotlighting the black cats at the SPCA.  Instead of the usual one or two black cat adoptions that month, all eighteen were adopted and none of them were returned.  Other shelters incorporate more everyday solutions such as highlighting a pet’s personality on their kennel card or bio – causing adopters to look beyond the initial appearance.  Getting black dogs out of the kennels and into a vibrant atmosphere to take their photos also draws attention to otherwise overlooked pets.

So are black pets in more danger than their colorful counterparts?  While disputed among many groups, the ideas of “Big Black Dog Syndrome” and the black cat’s plight are present concerns in the eyes of many shelters around the country.


Female, 9 mo
Located at Memphis Animal Services 901-636-1416
*Owner Surrender 9-30-14*Euthanized 10-2-14*


“Adopt Your Own Mini Panther: A Campaign Targeting the Adoption of Black Cats – Petfinder.” Petfinder Adopt Your Own Mini Panther A Campaign Targeting the Adoption of Black Cats Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

Fears, Danika. ” Puppy prejudice: Are black animals less likely to be adopted?.” TODAY. N.p., 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

Jones, Carolyn. “Black Cats Have Bad Luck Getting Adopted.” SFGate. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.


1 Comment

  1. Thank you for writing the article about black cats and dogs! Whether there are more pets born black or that people are less likely to adopt a black pet, we need to come up with ideas to get all pets adopted but also focus on the black cats and dogs. I like the idea that the shelter came up with, adopt a mini Panther, using their states football team logo!
    Thank you again for sharing!


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