There are many myths, superstitions and stigmas surrounding cats and dogs of the darkest color. For instance, did you know that a black cat crossing your path from right to left is bad luck, but from left to right is said to be good? Were you aware that, according to ancient folklore, the apparitions of black dogs were believed to be the unquiet ghosts of wicked souls? Did you know as well that here and now, in modern times, black dogs and cats are the last to be adopted?
Black and other dark-furred cats and dogs are the proverbial black sheep when it comes to pet adoption. According to the Washington Post, they are the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. Shelters need to work that much harder to draw attention to and dispel the myths surrounding the adoption of darker dogs and cats.
Winston Churchill had a black dog
his name was written on it
It followed him around from town to town
It’d bring him down
took him for a good long ride
took him for a good look around
While both black cats and dogs both suffer unjustly earned reputations, black dogs seem to bear the brunt. BBD – or Big Black Dog Syndrome - is a somewhat unexplained, but widely known phenomenon among shelters. In addition to having the curse of dark fur, their large size can make them appear menacing. While there is no clear rationale, there are theories as to why black dogs and cats are harder to adopt. They do not photograph as well as lighter colored animals, and their features get lost and don’t translate well in photos, making them hard to market to a discriminating and – at times – discriminatory public.
They physically get lost, as well. Kennels can sometimes be poorly lit or are in warehouse locations with tons of shadowy corners, where darker colored animals can blend in and go unseen. In addition to the stigma attached to them in folklore, Hollywood also positions them in an evil light. They are cast as companions to villains or symbolize impending doom. In the mental health arena, depression is commonly referred to as the Black Dog.
To combat negative stigmas and to draw more positive attention to these animals, shelter workers will do things like accessorize black cats and dogs with bright collars and bandanas, and hold functions, such as “Black is Beautiful” or “Black is Back” to try and raise awareness that these animals are need homes, too. Many shelters reduce their rates around Halloween to entice people to adopt darker hued animals. Some even offer black cat adoption for free.
However, free black cat adoption around Halloween has experienced some serious backlash, as pets being adopted for the purpose of Halloween can sometimes be done with ill-intent. Black cats have reportedly been tortured or used in ritualistic killings around the holiday. Because of this, many animal welfare organizations across the country halt the adoption process in an attempt to prevent cruelty to black cats. Mike Arms, President of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California, says, “I have heard this old wives’ tale more than once in my career. You would think by now that pet adoption agencies would be professional enough to be able to screen potential adopters in evaluating a good home life.”
In terms of personality, temperament and behavior, black dogs and cats are no different than any other. In fact, Black Pearl Dogs gives a top 10 list as to why black dogs, in particular, are the best dogs. There’s a top 10 list for cats, too, and some folklore even sees a black feline as a good omen. The Scottish believe that a black cat arriving on their doorstep signals prosperity, and a lady who owns a black cat is believed to have many suitors.
A stigma is just a stigma, and a pet in need of a home is a pet in need of a home. Superstition only has power if it’s given to it, and the only thing superstition does is potentially cost these animals their lives. So why not help debunk the myth and welcome a black cat or dog into your home this Halloween? It may not bring you luck or prosperity, but it will surely give you unconditional love.
~ Megan McClure, Pets for Patriots volunteer