Yes, we have a black family in the White House, but that might not be as progressive as another fact: That black family has a black dog.
In the world of pet adoption, there is some serious color-ism going on.
Stereotypes and myths about our dark-furred friends abound. Believe it or not, these superstitions and misunderstandings actually make it less likely for them to get adopted. Shelters call this ”Black Dog Syndrome.:
Part of the problem is simply the fact that black pets are harder to photograph. People perusing Petfinder and the like often make decisions on which pet to adopt based on photos that show the animal’s facial expressions. A bad photograph can make people skip over them in an instant.
Thankfully, over the past few years, there has been more awareness about the plights of animals with dark fur who are brought to shelters. Organizations like Black Pearl Dogs have made it their mission to get people to take a look at these pets and have managed to help spread the word.
The Best Friends Animal Society is on a similar mission, and is currently in the midst of its annual Back in Black national adoption month. Their goal is to help black cats and dogs find homes. The organization has dedicated the month of May to black homeless animals for the second year in a row. Last year, their campaign helped 900 black animals find homes. This year, their goal is to get a thousand animals adopted around the country. Hundreds of shelters are offering to waive or reduce their fees on the adoption of black pets for the next three weeks.
Personally, I’m color blind. My dog Weezy is black, and I adopted him without knowing any of these issues. I saw several pictures of dogs online before I physically went to the shelter, but once I saw him, there was no way I was leaving with any other puppy. Here is an example of a picture of him taken without giving any second thought to the the lighting in the room, and another one that was taken more carefully:
To me, the top picture could be any dog, while the bottom one perfectly shows Weezy’s personality and his cute, lopsided ears.
At TheDogs’ HQ, Annie has two black pets- Amos the dog and Sylvia the cat. So between the two of us, we can definitely vouch for all those homeless black pets out there. Black power!
Jennifer Bristol of the website That Touch of Pit, is the former head of adoption at the Animal Haven shelter in Soho, let us in on what lengths shelters go through to make the darker animals stand out. It is important for them to be wearing colorful collars so that there is something to stand out against their fur, she said, Some shelters will even put boas or bandanas on their animals to achieve this to a greater extent. She believes that “it’s exceptionally important to write descriptions that detail so much of their personality (all truthful, of course). And, if possible, photos of the dogs with people, in homes and with other animals if they are inter-species friendly.”
If you’re thinking of adopting a pet soon, don’t discount any dark animals based on the pictures you see online- go ahead and meet them in person. And if you are unable to adopt a black pet, consider helping them out by sharing Best Friends’ Pets of the Week on Facebook, tweet about the campaign, or go down to one of the shelters and volunteer. Best Friends has a listing of adoptable black pets all around the country. Here are a few of the cute blackies currently up for adoption in the New York City area:
(Illustration by Beppe Giacobbe)