You’ve decided to adopt a cat or dog. Fantastic! You’re already awesome. But when you’re at the shelter or looking online, you may have passed by an amazing, loving animal for reasons you’re not even aware of. Reasons like Black Dog Syndrome, which is an unconscious bias towards black dogs and cats.
Most of us already have an idea of what we’re looking for in terms of size, breed, and temperament. And while we don’t normally consider the colour of animal, it may still influence our choice. Black dog syndrome is a phenomenon which suggests that potential adopters pass over these dogs because of the colour of their coat and their portrayal as aggressive and intimidating. It’s difficult to capture a black dog’s expression in a photograph which can make them appear less approachable than a lighter-coloured dog.
For centuries, black cats have been portrayed as evil bringers of bad luck and a sign of impending death. Black dogs were seen as a spectral or demonic entity, often connected with the devil. So you may walk by that crate at the shelter or scroll past that online photo simply because of a long-held stereotype.
But we can’t blame this unfair generalization totally on ancient folklore. Black dog and cat bias still persists in current, mainstream media. For example, Harry Potter's The Grim was a black dog alleged to bring about the demise of the person who encountered it.
Awareness is the key to prevent black dogs and cats from being adopted last – or not at all. October 1 is National Black Dog Day which encourages the adoption of dogs in darker shades.
Initiatives like this will go far to dispel the myth of the mean, black dog, but these animals are still being abused. ADAC will not adopt out any black cats during the month of October. There’s a risk they will be subject to ritual killings. And sadly, ADAC is not the only rescue with this policy.
As animal lovers, you have an opportunity to balance the scales and give every animal a chance to find a forever home. Animals like Mateo and Samantha who are still waiting to be adopted. You may have to look a little closer, but these beautiful black cats or dogs are reaching out to you, and asking for a chance.