Comfort for Critters

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How to Help Black Pets

I think we can all agree that judging anyone on the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character, is pretty appalling. It looks like this tendency in some humans, extends unfortunately, to our four-foot companions. Yes, “black dog/cat syndrome” is real, and real disgusting (I say this as my jet-black cat peers down at me from her perch). I swear she added the “real disgusting” part, though I do agree.

I hear over and over from shelters that black cats and dogs are often quickly passed over and sometimes remain in the shelter for twice as long as their non-black companions. Petfinder, a matching service for adoptable pets and the lucky families that find them, also reports that black animals remain on their “available” list four times as long as pets of other colors, or mixes of colors. All this data unfortunately means that the black dogs and cats are also the first to be euthanized in shelters, if they do not have a “no-kill” policy.

The reason for this phenomenon is as ridiculous as it is sad. Some shelters theorize that it’s because black pets don’t photograph as well as pets of other colors. Remember, we live in the age of Facebook, Instagram and more Selfies than I care to look at. Other shelters see visitor’s unwarranted fear of black dogs (we can thank Hollywood for that), or superstitions about black cats. Really? They also point out that the facial expressions of solid black pets are a bit harder to read and that the animal can seem less “unique”.

I like to think that our colorful blankets help a bit, but realistically shelters need to face this very real problem and offer solutions. Thankfully most shelters do, and in very creative ways. A shelter in Utah has promoted a “Back in Black” theme each November, where they publicize the plight of their black pets. Many other shelters hold special adoption events where only black pets are featured or allow for discounted adoption fees for black pets.

Every pet owner can also help. If you live with a black companion animal, be proud! Include them in Facebook posts and family photographs whenever possible. If you even smell a whiff of BDS (Black Dog Syndrome), talk to the person about their fears and show them they are unfounded. When most people interact with a lovable black ball of fur, any misgivings will evaporate. It’s also a good reminder to all of us to look past the shell that encompasses all life and to look for the beauty that lies inside!

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