What Is The Black Dog Syndrome?

black dog friday image

Did you know that black dogs are the most killed dogs in America?

black dog friday image

Animal Shelters know it and animal rescue groups know it but the general public is unaware of this tragic fact. Black dog syndrome is a phenomenon in which black dogs are passed over for adoption in favor of lighter-colored animals. Animal shelters often use the term BBD, or big black dog, to describe the type of larger dark-colored mixed-breed said to be typically passed over by adopters.

The Black Dog Phenomenon may be due to a number of factors. Research has identified geographic location, fear against certain breed types, and the fact that large, black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive in film and on television as possible correlates. Initial research at one location identified a longer period experienced by black dogs before adoption.

Some people believe that during the pet adoption process some potential owners associate the color black with evil or misfortune (similar to the common superstition surrounding black cats, and this bias transfers over to their choice of dog. Additionally, many shelters feature photo profiles of their dogs on the shelter website. Because black dogs do not photograph well, lighter-colored dogs have an advantage with potential adopters browsing the site.

In a 2011 study by the ASPCA, appearance was the most frequently cited reason for adopters’ selection of a dog of both puppies and adult dogs.

The issue has been gaining media attention since the mid-2000s. Tamara Delaney, an early activist against black dog syndrome, developed a website called Black Pearl Dogs in 2004 specifically to address the issue, both by educating the public about its existing, as well as showcasing individual dogs available for adoption.

As an animal rescuer myself, founding and running a no kill rescue, I have seen this bias often. Black dogs are harder to adopt at our rescue and in the shelters we go into they are harder for them to adopt as well. I was curious about this and did some research.

We have found that in a 1998 study of 1,468 relinquished dogs offered for adoption at a local humane society found having a primarily black coat color was a variable associated with euthanasia, while gold, gray, and white coats colors were significant predictors of successful adoption.

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science of dog and cat adoption in California animal shelters found pure black coat colors to be negative factors in adoption rates for both dogs and cats.

A 2010 PhD thesis analyzing multiple factors found a measurable variance contributing to dogs with primarily black coats being euthanized rather than adopted

A 2013 study published in the journal Anthrozoos displayed photographs of dogs colored either yellow or black, and with floppy ears or pointy ears. It found that “participants rated the yellow dog significantly higher than the black dog on the personality dimensions of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability.[ It also found differences significant difference in ratings based on ear size, indicating “that people attribute different personality characteristics to dogs based solely on physical characteristics of the dog.

Additionally a study presented at the 2013 International Society for Anthrozoology conference that showed participant’s pictures of cats and dogs of varying colors found white cats were considered the friendliest, orange cats second friendliest, and black cats were considered least friendly. Among dogs, yellow dogs were considered friendliest, brown dogs second friendliest, and black dogs least friendly. Darker pets were similarly judged less adoptable and black dogs were considered the most aggressive.

This bias needs to end. Black dogs are as loving and friendly and protecting as any other dog. In our present time we have to accept science and facts and not be ruled by old wives tales or superstitions. Black dogs can and soon will become America’s favorite dogs if we have a say in it.

At BLACKdogFRIDAY we intend to be the passionate and reasoned voice for Black Dogs. To start the education process we have created a national campaign to save black shelter dogs. We are partnering with Green Pets America Charities, the no kill animal welfare organization we founded in 2004 to raise awareness and help shelters and rescue groups get these beautiful dogs adopted.

To that end we have launched a nationally campaign named BLACK dog FRIDAY. The purpose being that every Friday at every shelter across America Black Dog Adoptions will be promoted. We want to educate the public and accurately portray black dogs as the loving dogs they are. Additionally we want people to recognize them as good protectors as well. To that end we created the tagline…”Adopt a Black Dog – bring love and protection into your home”

You can help Black dog Friday become a regular Friday Adoption event in your community. Please call your shelter. Give them this flyer. Tell your friends. Tell the news in your area. They can also download this flyer for free at our website at BLACKDOGFRIDAY.org

Additionally you can help adopt black dogs by posting this flyer on your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other sites. And if you are able please make a tax-deductible donation at Green Pets America no kill. IRS NON PROFIT EIN #77-0681947

“Adopt a black dog – bring love into your home”


Author: Steve

Author, Director Green Pets America.

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