It might sound ludicrous, but the staff at rescue centres and shelters across the world are sadly familiar with Black Dog Syndrome. This is the name shelter staff have given the tendency for black and dark coloured dogs to remain in rescue far longer than those with lighter coats.
Along with their handicap for getting adopted, it also means that black dogs are also euthanised at a much higher rate than any other coloured dog. This is simply because they are considered unadoptable, and, because of the sheer numbers of unwanted dogs in rescue, these poor guys cannot remain there indefinitely. They sadly join older dogs and those with special needs, at the bottom of the Most Wanted list.
Shocking, isn’t it? After all, it seems very odd that someone would decide against a dog based solely on colour. However, when you look into the mythology surrounding black dogs in popular culture, it becomes somewhat easier to understand.
There’s the Grim, in Harry Potter, for example: a “large, black, spectral dog that haunts churchyards”, Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as his “black dog”, and then, of course, there is the Hound of the Baskervilles, plus stories dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, aligning black dogs with bad omens and death. But, as we know, all this is fiction. Somehow, though, it doesn’t stop many people from being intimidated by black dogs.
It’s not just dogs that are affected by Black Dog Syndrome, despite what the name suggests. Black cats have the same unenviable cultural stigma as dogs, being considered harbingers of bad luck and witchcraft. They, too, spend more time in shelters than their light-coloured peers.
It’s also a matter of photogenity. In photographs, dark coloured animals can look a bit… well… uninspiring. Their eyes and expressions get lost in the darkness, and considering that we humans put so much stock in facial expressions, black animals are at a natural disadvantage.
So, what can you do to help overcome Black Dog Syndrome?
Well, the first thing you can do, of course, is to adopt a black dog or cat yourself! If this isn’t an option, then spreading the word about Black Dog Syndrome is a good idea. Most people are totally unaware of the phenomenon, and so it’s an unconscious prejudice. But, were people to know about the plight of black animals in shelters, they may be more prepared to consider one for themselves. Remind your friends who are looking for a pet that personality is the most important thing in a friend, four legged or otherwise.