Is it a black/white thing?Black dogs and black cats are often the last to find homes and the first in line to be euthanized. Even pet stores shy away from taking in black pets.
By: Stacie Kimball, Alexandria Echo Press
Could racism be affecting the pet population?
It may be hard to believe, but Black Dog Syndrome (BDS), although not proven, appears to exist.
BDS is a phenomenon that is well known and observed across the nation by those who work in pet placement. Black dogs and black cats are often the last to find homes and the first in line to be euthanized.
Even pet stores shy away from taking in black pets. Patti Zinke of the Pet Center and Patti’s Grooming in Alexandria agreed in reference to cats.
“Very true,” Zinke replied. “I don’t like to take in black cats, because I don’t sell them.”
Christin Klimek, director of the Lakes Area Humane Society (LAHS) in Alexandria, has noticed the same trend in placing pets for adoption.
“We get really excited when people come into the shelter and say, ‘Ya know, I’m looking for a black lab or a black lab mix.’” explained Klimek. “We’re like, ‘Oh, we love you!’”
Klimek noted that they do place the black dogs and cats, “But definitely, statistically they are with us longer.”
DOES THE SYNDROME EXIST?
Some people argue there is no syndrome, just an over abundance of black animals due to the black gene being a dominant.
Others maintain the syndrome does exist and argue it is not about population. They believe the syndrome is about black pets being passed over more often than lighter-colored animals.
Although there is no evidence to prove or disprove the syndrome, theories as to its existence include the following:
Photographs. Black dogs and cats are hard to photograph, as their features do not show up as well.
People look for a face to fall in love with, and with pet placement facilities using the Internet and digital photography to advertise available pets, the black animals often get passed up for the more photogenic color combinations.
Lights, camera, action. Benji wasn’t black and neither was Lassie. Even Toto from the Wizard of Oz had several tones of gray and browns in his coat.
Like photographs, the black animals’ features don’t show up well on film either.
Black dogs are often depicted as villains in the movies or used to display aggressive and dangerous characteristics. This often leaves the public with a false stereotype that black animals are menacing.
The truth is the black coat of a dog or cat has no effect on their temperament or personality.
Human nature. Many people are drawn to lighter colored dogs or cats. Sometimes black pets are viewed as too ordinary.
Zinke and Klimek agree.
Zinke commented that everyone seems to like at least a little white.
“Even if they buy a lab [black], they like the little white star or something,” she said.
Klimek mentioned, “People are looking for a certain color. Something that is appealing or unique.”
She shared that trends come and go and that in the last couple years people have been looking for ivory labs, not black.
Presentation. Kennels do not always have the best lighting and occasionally the black animals are overlooked simply because they are not seen.
Language. Today’s society is saturated with a lot of slang terminology. Unfortunately for black dogs, “The Black Dog” is a term used in the mental health industry to describe depression. “Walking the Black Dog” is a website about depression. Living with a Black Dog is a book about depression.
Superstition. The common superstition about black cats does impact the adoptability of the animal.
The superstitions play to the cat’s advantage during Halloween though, as Zinke likes to have a black cat or two available at her pet store during that timeframe.
It is believed that some people associate the color black with evil or misfortune and that the bias carries over to the color choice of pets.
DON’T FALL VICTIM TO THE SYNDROME
So, how much is that doggy in the window? The next time you are in the market for a new pet, consider taking a flashlight with you and peering into the corners of the kennels or cages. You might find a black dog or black cat that is perfect for you and your family.
Resist society trends and be unique in choosing a black dog or cat.
Consider all of your options and take the time to sit down with every animal – regardless of its color. By choosing your pet based on disposition rather than by looks, you may find the shiny ebony coat and the grateful adoring eyes of a black dog or cat hard to resist.
Holiday tips for pet purchasing
Patti Zinke from the Pet Center and Christin Klimek of Lakes Area Humane Society, both in Alexandria, shared some tips when purchasing pets during the holidays.
• Purchase a gift certificate and let the recipient select the animal.
• Buy the cage and supplies for under the tree and select the pet later.
• Before purchasing a pet for someone else, consider a surprise visit to the humane society or pet store to gauge the interest of the potential pet recipient. Just because Mom seems lonely and you think she needs a dog doesn’t mean that is what Mom wants.
• Consider your holiday schedule before purchasing a pet and plan for a date when you will have more time to devote to the animal.