Meet Barney Rubble.
A colleague just adopted Barney from Loup Garou Rescue in San Francisco, which is “dedicated to the rescue and re-homing of black and dark colored companion animals from shelters where they are disproportionately euthanized for their color” (http://www.loupgarourescue.org/).
That’s right. Black dogs are less likely to be adopted–and therefore, more likely to be put down, than white and light-colored dogs. Why? One explanation for “Black Dog Syndrome” suggests that black dogs “look more threatening than other dogs.” Another observes that black dogs are “tougher to photograph well”–which matters when potential owners’ first glimpses of you are on-line or on a poster (http://www.care2.com/greenliving/black-dog-syndrome.html#ixzz1st3lPW1b).
The parallel to humans would be comical, but we’re talking about lives, both canine and human.
And, of course, the anti-black trend holds true for cats as well. According to Kathleen Fram, co-chair of adoptions for the Summit Animal Rescue Association in NJ, “Black cats don’t get adopted nearly as frequently as other colors. People just pass them by” (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2004374431_blackcats28.html). So it appears, the myth of bad luck bounces back on cats in a very real way:
A 2002 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science that examined adoption rates over nine months in a California pound found that black cats were about half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats and two-thirds less likely than white cats. But for cats in general, the odds are not good: of the approximately 3,000 cats of all colors offered for adoption during that time, only around 600, or 20 percent, found homes. Those remaining were euthanized.
Given these odds, kudos and thanks to Loup Garou (which is French for “werewolf”) for the work they’re doing and the awareness they’re raising about a real, irrational and lethal bias that may very well be getting in the way of people finding a companion animal to love and to love them. No, adopting black cats and dogs won’t mean that every animal finds a home, but it may mean more animals finding homes, if we can see our prejudice and have an opportunity to interrogate it.
For more info about Loup Garou dogs up for adoption: http://www.loupgarourescue.org/adopt-this-pet/ or to send a donation: Loup Garou, PO Box 16008, San Francisco, CA 94116.
** Thanks (and congrats!!) to my colleague BB for the info on Loup Garou. And a big puppy hug to Barney Rubble.