By Janet McAfee
Glorious black cats and dogs are waiting for you to adopt them! Their shining ebony coats glisten in the winter sun, and their striking amber gold eyes peer at you longingly. Unfortunately, black cats and dogs are shrouded in negative superstitions, and have a harder time getting adopted than their light colored counterparts. Folks who visit a shelter to adopt a pet are more likely to leave with a light colored, multicolored, or animal with interesting markings. There are no scientific studies to confirm why this is true, although theories abound.
In kennels containing multiple animals, those with black fur are simply harder to see, particularly if the lighting is dim. People often fall in love with animals at first sight, and animals that are easier to see are more likely to get picked up, played with, and adopted. People tend to love color and patterns. They favor fluffy white dogs and cats that have Siamese markings.
Black Animals are Difficult to Photograph – Pet adoptions are often promoted by photographs on websites, Facebook, and other social media. Petfinder and Pet Harbor are popular websites that list photographs and biographies of rescue animals. The best of photographers must make a special effort to light a black cat or dog enough so that its facial characteristics can be seen. Without a clear view of its face and expression, potential adopters have a harder time relating to an animal’s personality. When the background is dark or multi colored, these animals cannot be clearly viewed and their beauty unappreciated.
Black Dogs in Movies – Think about your favorite dogs from movies and television. The lighter colored ones get the leading roles as in Lassie, Old Yeller, and The Shaggy Dog. They are easier to film and their facial expressions are more obvious to audiences. In the movie Beethoven, a brown and white St. Bernard played the happy family dog, while black colored Doberman Pinschers played the bad dogs that snarled and threatened our hero dog. Just like the villainous cowboys in old movies who wore black hats, black dogs in the media are portrayed as the aggressive bad guys.
Black Cat Superstitions – In the past, black cats were associated with witchcraft or evil. Today, they remain the poster pets for Halloween, portrayed as scary creatures that conjure fear and loathing. While everyone knows intellectually black animals have no association with evil, these stereotypes can unconsciously impact our preferences. Because they have no other markings, the eyes of black cats can appear ominous and glowing as they peer out from kennels.
Efforts to Promote Black Pets – Many rescue organizations feature special adoption events, including reduced adoption fees, for black pets during February. Best Friends Animal Society has a nationwide “Back in Black” month of events during May to encourage adoptions. Best Friends’ literature states, “Families are cheating themselves when they walk by these characters without getting to know their friendly, lovable, and sometimes goofy personalities.”
Owners of black animals can tell you they are just as wonderful as one of any other shade. Maybe they are just a bit more grateful than other rescued animals.
Loving All Animals in Palm Desert rescued sweet Zanni from a high kill public shelter. This beautiful Lab mix is pictured here giving volunteer Tracy Habijanac a grateful kiss on the freedom ride home. Now 80 pounds of active dog energy, Zanni has 2 strikes against her with her color and her size, as most Coachella Valley residents prefer small and medium size dogs. LAA gets calls daily from prospective adopters seeking “small, white, fluffy” pups. Meanwhile, lovely black dogs like Zanni remain in shelters and foster homes.
Zanni’s foster mom, Vanessa Ruggles, describes this special dog, “To me, Zanni is so beautiful, inside and out. Her glossy raven coat shimmers radiantly. Naturally gregarious, she loves every human she meets. She is intent on engaging with her people, whether to learn a new trick, play fetch, or just snuggle. Zanni’s love of human interaction makes her a hit with our house guests; she makes everyone feel special.”
Contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 or www.lovingallanimals.org to schedule a meet and greet with Zanni. She just might be the new best furfriend you are seeking.
Pay a visit to the largest local shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644. Take a look at some of the lovely black fur angels waiting there on www.rcdas.org and find your faithful friend, whatever shade that might be!