Discrimination Against Dogs: Black Dog Syndrome

Black Dog

It’s called “black dog syndrome”. Many loving dogs in need of good homes are being overlooked, under appreciated, and under adopted at shelters nationwide, and they all share one thing in common: their black coats.

There are no hard numbers, but informal surveys done at animal shelters show that black dogs are less likely to be adopted and that black terriers are the most likely to be overlooked and eventually euthanized.

Numerous reasons may result in the fact that black dogs may be adopted less than non-black dogs: superstitions, negative labels, fear, or even that people feel like they can’t read expressions from a dark-haired dog. Regardless of the reason, shelters are trying to be creative to get people to adopt black dogs and to stop this “black dog syndrome.”

More on the black dog syndrome after the jump.

From wcbstv.com:

“Big black dogs can pose an adoption challenge to animal shelters. It’s pretty common to have several black dogs in the shelter at any one given time,” said Kim Intino, Director of Animal Sheltering Issues for the National Humane Society.

“There are certain things that you have to do to adopt black dogs out. You’ve got to take photographs with a different background, make them pop, give them some zeal because they just don’t stand out,” said J.C. Crist, CEO of a local shelter. “They don’t have any distinguishing features other than their personality.”

Intino added that it’s important to remember that black dogs aren’t only animals that get stigmatized. Black cats are considered unlucky and she says shelters are filled with many of those fun-loving pets too.

For more information on black dog syndrome, visit Black Pearl Dogs, an organization dedicated to making a difference: one black dog at a time with education, awareness and action.

38 Responses to “Discrimination Against Dogs: Black Dog Syndrome”

  1. Rose says:

    Sadly, I think it’s the same for black cats. Aren’t black cats lucky in the UK?

  2. Lynne says:

    This is so sad. My boyfriend has a black lab/chow mix who is the sweetest dog, a real teddy bear. I have a black schnauzer (rescued) who is a love. (Picture of him here: http://llpmusings.blogspot.com.....loats.html) I wouldn’t trade Dusty for ten million dollars.

    People are missing so much when they can’t see past the outer. This is true for animals and people both. The next time I adopt a dog, I’ll look for another black terrier.

  3. Captn' Carl says:

    This is just as wrong as wrong can be. Dogs are Dogs, and they give unconditional love to us no matter what color we are!

  4. blkcatgal says:

    Black cats suffer from the same stigma. I adopted a black cat last year after reading about how difficult it is to find homes for them. Even the shelter people told me they have a hard time placing black cats. My black cat is such a sweetheart! I wouldn’t trade him in the world (except when he chewed my new leather sandals!)

  5. Gindy says:

    When we went looking for a dog in 1996 in the Cincinnati area, we found ONE black dog available in three shelters.
    I can only assume, sadly, that the rest of them were euthanized almost immediately since they would not be adopted. I wanted a black dog since my husband’s job (pilot) required him to wear black pants and our silver GSD’s hair was very visible on those pants.
    As it was, we rescued a mixed black and tan pup on her last day in the shelter. She is still with us, although the silver GSD is gone. We also have a Pyrenees/Lab mix (blond and tan) and a GSMD purebred (rust, black and white).
    Hubby uses a hair remover now a days.

  6. 3FURS says:

    Skin color, hair color, it dosen’t matter in human or animal. You should look at the eyes. As the saying goes “the eyes have it”. You can read a great deal in the eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul.

  7. Becky says:

    All my dogs are predominately black and all are over 65 pounds….I figured they would be the ones that would have the hardest time finding a home.

    The one cat that I adopted from a shelter (the others were strays that i took in) is black. When I got him, at least half of the cats there where black….

  8. petslave says:

    Black for both animals is definitely a big detriment when trying to find homes for unwanted pets because of these stigmas. But there are a subset of us that know the truth–black is THE most gorgeous coat color out there because it’s the only one that reflects light like a mirror much more than any other.

    No other coat color looks as glossy & elegant as black. My first cat that I got when I was a kid was black & I’ve always had a real fondness for black cats since–they look like royalty. All 3 of my dogs & one of my Manx cats (all my pets are shelter animals) are solid black, & totally shiny glossy gorgeous.

  9. mittens says:

    yes, it’s the same for cats at the shelter. i think theyre beautiful-dogs and cats. my bosses black lab is the sweetest dog ….a big old doll. people are scared of him i guess because he’s big and black but he’s a cream puff.

    i once sent a pack of kids screaming from me because i was walking my roommate’s boston terrier- they thought she was a pit bull- if you can believe it. she just wanted them to pet her. people’s ignorant perceptions and superstitions are sad and limiting.children can so benefit from caring for a pet- that theyre fearful of any dog because it might be a pit bull or black..a sad commentary on their parents.

    i have a hard time photographing my mostly black torties because of the reflection off the black fur. and that’s the only ‘ problem’ with them. black cats and dogs were/are sacred to goddess worship in many cultures. tagging black colored animals with being evil or bad luck is merely a smear campaign targeting an ancient religion through it’s totems.

  10. Traci says:

    “Black cats suffer from the same stigma. I adopted a black cat last year after reading about how difficult it is to find homes for them. Even the shelter people told me they have a hard time placing black cats. My black cat is such a sweetheart! I wouldn’t trade him in the world (except when he chewed my new leather sandals!)”

    It also goes for black tuxes.

    Personally, while I find all cat coats and breeds beautiful, I find slinky black cats with silky coats and large gold eyes in my top 5. How someone can miss that kind of beauty is beyond me.

  11. furmom says:

    I can hardly believe this. We’ve had registered German Shepherds for years, and while we preferred the dark red head and black/silver back, we also took an almost totally black shepherd as a rescue. Everyone commented how beautifu he was, and his personality and smarts were exceptional, courageous yet perfect with people. My Golden however does suffer from Black Dog Syndrome, he seems to have a definite prejudice against large black dogs. Of course he never was acquainted with our Fabulous Black Shepherd.

  12. Carolyn says:

    My brother has two border collie mixes that are rescues. They are beautiful, both in temperment and are gorgeous well cared for animals. One is mostly white with a few black markings. The other is black with a little tan tipping. When they go for walks, people always stop and exclaim over the mostly white one and tend to ignore the black one even though they both love meeting new people. The only explanation we’ve managed to come up with is that the black one just tends to be less noticeable — no matter how hard his tail is wagging! — compared to his flashier sister.

  13. Kimberly-Lee says:

    Unfortunatey, discrimination seems to be a human failing throughout other pecies.Ihave five black cats and two black dogs who own me- then there are all the other ones I rescue/foster. Usually I won’t be able to place any blacks. My neighborhood has some ethnical issues against black animals.

  14. Vicki says:

    I love black dogs; they have a special softness and glamor about them. I love my black cat, too. I had two black cats as a child. I had a German Shepherd several years who had a lot of black, and he was so gorgeous
    he turned heads. I think there is a mystery associated with
    the darkness from superstition, witchcraft and stories like the Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s just like any other prejudice; the more exposure people
    have to different animals (as well as to other people) the less fearful they are
    of the unknown.

  15. gatsby says:

    The comment about taking photographs of black dogs is VERY important when it comes to shelters these days. So many times our first impressions are in a photograph, and with the types of cameras, training, and time that many people have, they do end up looking like indistinguishable blobs.

    I’ve been thinking about volunteering at a shelter just to take the photographs of the dogs for posting…. I’m a pro photographer. I just think it might make a difference to bring out the qualities of the dogs in a special way, rather than just having anonymous snapshots.

  16. elizabeth says:

    As I always say- shiny black cars, shiny black dogs, and shiny black cats—-the BEST!!!!

  17. Patrick in Petoskey says:

    Three years ago I visited a local Humane Society and came home with the most amazing, all black and 100+ pound, golden retriever/labrador mix. Although I had been visiting the same shelter and looking for a new pet for several months, I knew immediately that there was an instant “connection” between us both. Sadly, he had been abandoned by his previous owners when they moved from the area and hadn’t made provisions for him to move with them. In addition to being clean and well-behaved, he is affectionate and loving; wonderful with children, other dogs and other pets; the envy of other neighborhood pet-owners; and above all, completely devoted to me. How heartbreaking to think that this amazing animal (and others like him) was/are being overlooked by others simply because of color and size. I only learned of BBD Syndrome after adopting my own BBD. On behalf of BBD’s and BBD Owners everywhere- THANK YOU for your efforts to educate others!

  18. Chris says:

    I have three black dogs–a 10 year old chow mix and a 9 year old rottweiler, both from shelters, and a 6 month old lab that friends of ours were going to drop off to the pound. They are the most well behaved, lovable dogs I have ever known. I wouldn’t trade them for the anything in the world!

  19. Linda says:

    About 4 weeks ago, at 5 AM, I went to let my 15 year old Westie, Billy, in the back door. I opened the door and in walked a solid black (except for a white star on her chest), 3 month old, female stray. It was raining out, and she was wet and terribly thin. She sat down, leaned on my leg and gave me the saddest look I’ve seen on a dog’s face in a long, long time. This brings the dog count to four. She’s very sweet and affectionate - a really nice puppy. She’s housetrained, but didn’t know anything else. We’ve made progress on “sit”. I named her Cleo.
    I also have a 5 year old shepherd/chow mix, Lucky, who I found in a parking lot when she was 3 weeks old, and a 1 year old beagle/pit bull/chow mix, Sammy, who was running down the middle of the street at 6 weeks old.
    I had been debating whether or not to keep Cleo, but after reading about BDS here, I’m definitely going to keep her. I didn’t know about this prejudice toward black dogs. How unfair. Thanks for bringing this sad fact to my attention.

  20. Anne Hayter says:

    I can’t believe that people wouldn’t adopt a dog because it’s black! My husband found our beautiful black dog at the pound when he was only a few weeks old and fell in love with him instantly. He was the best dog ever - placid and playful with a very cheeky attitude. Sadly, he died today. He was attacked by the dog next door, and in a few months time, when our family is ok again, I’d like to find another black dog like him. Unfortunately, no one knows what type of dog he was (even the vets couldn’t pin down a specific breed except to say that he was a cross between different types of dogs), but he had the same face as the dog pictured in this article. Could someone tell me what type of dog is it?

  21. E says:

    Dogs all have equal value & should be treated the same!

  22. Emily says:

    I adopted Marlo, a medium-sized Jack Russell mix. She is mostly white, but has a black face. She is PERFECT! Never barks, is house trained, and lets my one-year-old mess with her all the time. I found out after I adopted her that had she gone back to the shelter from where we got her (during a play where a shelter volunteer was performing.) She would have been put down. It’s such a shame to see such a sweet dog and think no one ever noticed her.

  23. Aussie Mongrel says:

    I came to read this after looking for images of black dogs, I have adopted two black dogs now. And love them both more than life. They both are loyal and all ways by my side & touching my soul closer every day. And I can’t understand why people feel black dogs are a bad thing, They look more refined & cleaner than most dogs. Now days I like to take the time to talk to people from all over the world by being online. And being online I use a persona and identity as not to use my legal name, while thinking about it a number of years ago I actually chose to make my image online as a black mongrel dog and why not, as so to promote my feeling on this matter of discrimination…. Keep are black Canine and Feline friends bright eyed and bushy tailed all the way.

  24. Nothing Important says:

    I just love dogs. I swear, this dog looks a lot like my own dog I adopted! Her name is Shadow and has the same eyes, nose, and ears. The ears have hair that sticks up like the one on the image. This is weird to me and my family, the Important’s. But the picture is cute. Like Shadow!

  25. Sahil says:

    This might seem like a storybook fantasy but every word is true from my own experience:

    I remember as a kid, I used to hang out at my uncle’s home - he kept two pet pups: a WHITE pomeranian and a BLACK labrador. Being only 8-yrs, my mind I wasn’t all that aware of animal shelter needs. I used to play with the White dog, ignoring the Black one which used to crave for my affection, sleeping under my feet. Sometimes, I used to pat the Black one to keep it happy, but never did feel attracted to it. It went on like this for many days until I dropped out of my uncle’s sight. After a couple of years, when I was strolling by my uncle’s garden - a huge, Black dog came running at me. I screamed in horror as I thought it was going to attack. I almost fled for my life from the wild animal and the dog kept following. My uncle was laughing all the while, “hah hah - Bruno (Black Dog’s name) still remembers you”. I was embarrassed. I asked him, “Where is Brutus (the White Dog)?” My uncle couldn’t hold his tears as the pomeranian was recently, run over by a truck. I felt like I so much missed the White Dog. It’s at this point of time that I turned my sight, the first time, to the BLACK dog - soon, Bruno became my best friend. My uncle allowed me to keep him at my house and indeed, as we all know, Labrador is the most gentle species among Dogs - Bruno was a true GENTLEMAN; I never saw a more loyal and faithful creature in my life. It never caused any complaint from me, or anyone in the neighbourhood. It was, especially, friendly towards children who enjoyed his company (unlike my own selfish childhood). Bruno stayed with me at my house throughout his remaining life (till I was 17). After that, he became sick and old, and had to be euthanized. I still can’t forget that day: of course, my preferences for “Black” or “White” had long been done away.

  26. Terry says:

    What a great article. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue. I believe I will always have at least one black dog. They are just so beautiful. Black dog lovers will enjoy a new book by Pamela Black Townsend, called

    Black is Beautiful: A Celebration of Dark Dogs, available through www.pgspca.org
    (all proceeds benefit the SPCA/Humane Society of Prince George’s County, Inc.)

  27. Lisa says:

    I had to stop and wipe the tears off my face reading many of the stories, I have a solid black gsd, who is a doll baby Jaycee girl, that also like many others, she was on a death row walk. Her size, and the fact she is a german shepherd, fate was not on her side. But death was not this time……. she was in a add for 300$ she was skin and bones, fleas, and had not been loved, and not had any contact with any others. she was scared of anything and everything, My daughter had such a loving kind heart that she drove 3 hours, she saved her life. …. she is now 8 mos getting fat, and doing very well. She is now in my pack, along with 2 other dogs and 3 cats. She has came a very long way, Jaycee has more work in her future, with the help of the trainer at petsmart Thanks Tom! she is working one on one with him. I will need to post pics of her. I live in WV and most of the time when we walk I see that they do move out of the way cause she is black. Jaycee goes well with my solid black cat Princess Meow Meow. who was a stray that found a home with us. I had looked on line at the many dogs going to death for the black fur….. it is just very sad, and needs more owners to reach out to the population , I love the black fur……. Thanks.

  28. lauren sudat says:

    i have 3 black dogs a black poodle a black ameracan cocker spaniel and a black lab cross there so loving it macks me sii

  29. Heather says:

    A new website www.startseeingblackdogs.com has free marketing and PR ideas to help rescue groups and shelters increase their black dog adoptions. There is also a blog, information on “Black dog Syndrome” including links to articles from major news outlets and some wondereful black dog photos.

  30. Mitchell says:

    I have had a 5 year old female black lab since she was a pup. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and loves people.

  31. Marlene says:

    I love black dogs, it is a pity and a loss to all those people whom have a problem with black dogs.

  32. Illy and Satchmo says:

    We’ve started a facebook group to increase awareness about big black dog syndrome. Please join us in the fight:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=73479788788

    The group is called Fight Big Black Dog Syndrome

  33. yvonne guerrero says:

    just becuz the samething happen to humins dosent mean that it should happen to animals as well.

  34. Rozz says:

    Thats sad that even dogs are descriminated.

  35. Anonymous says:

    so mean

  36. Birdfish says:

    A black dog to be thankful for.
    Jake. A black Lab found as a puppy abandoned, badly beaten with a broken leg. Even in this condition he caught the attention of a trainer due to his loving nature.
    He was adopted and grew up to be a search and rescue dog with a distinguished career being one of the first dogs on scene at the WTC 9/11 and in Mississippi after Katrina. He passed away at age 12 after battling cancer.
    Here’s what I don’t understand:
    how someone could beat a puppy and further I can’t understand how dogs can be so forgiving of such despicable treatment.

  37. Jeannette Toce says:

    I love all dogs especially bbds. Although everyone who saw my dog said, “Oh look it’s a bear!” I had a 150lb black rottweiler with a gentle personality and a compassionate nature. In his entire life, he never hurt another living creature. In fact, he lived peacefully with 2 cats (who picked on him), a bunny (who rode on him) & 2 hamsters (who nipped him). He recently passed away, but when I’m ready you can be sure I’ll adopt nothing other than a very big black dog.

  38. Conquering the Black Dog Syndrome | (DOG)SPIRED says:

    […] The Syndrome is not a disguise for “our problem,” but is rather a phenomenon that affects the majority of black dogs in and out of the shelter system. I propose this because there are other dogs in our community who are large, albeit not black, and they are not treated as ferocious beasts. Furthermore, there are many organizations that are working hard to expose the discrimination against black dogs, how it affects the shelter system, and the innocent black dogs. […]


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