When people visit their local shelter or adoption organization looking to adopt a pet, they are more than likely going to leave with one that is a lighter color or one with interesting markings. There are no hard scientific studies as to why black cats and dogs are often overlooked in the adoption process, but there are a lot of good theories. This is often called Black Dog Syndrome, although it applies equally to cats.

Fortunately, adoption organizations are getting creative and making an extra effort to get black dogs and cats adopted, and the media has taken an interest, publishing stories on these animals' plight. For dog and cat lovers, all it may take is a little awareness to turn this problem around!

Why Black Dogs and Cats Are Overlooked

It's not usually a conscious decision on the part of the potential adopter. There are often other factors that come into play. Here are some of the reasons that we know about.

Black Pets Are Harder to See

The simplest reason may be that black fur is harder to see. If the lighting in the kennel isn’t that great, a dog or cat with lighter or more colorful fur simply stands out better. Easier-to-see pets have a better shot at getting picked up and going home.

Black Cats and Dogs Are Harder to Photograph

Pet adoptions are often promoted online with photos. Even professional photographers sometimes have to go to special effort to light a black cat or dog properly. If a photo is the starting point in an adoption, pets with good photos have the best chance.

People Love Facial Features

Dogs and cats with all black faces, and no other markings, are at a disadvantage because it's very hard to see their facial features and expressions. So, people tend to assume they lack personality.

People Love Color

Our eyes are drawn to colors and patterns, so a cat or dog with multiple colors is going to get our attention before an all black coat will.

Black Dogs are Often Big Dogs

This can be a problem for two reasons. One, some people simply want a smaller dog. And two, some people perceive big black dogs as scary — possibly because that's how they are sometimes portrayed in movies.

Big Black Dogs Often Get the Scary Roles in Movies

In the movie Beethoven, the giant brown and white St. Bernard plays the loveable family dog, while black Doberman Pinschers play the mean dogs who snarl and threaten the bad guys.

Lighter colored dogs get the loveable leading roles (Lassie, Old Yeller, Shiloh, The Shaggy Dog) because they are easier to film and we can read their facial expressions. Big black dogs play the villains because they are so much easier to make look scary — in dim lighting with only eyes and teeth showing, they can look very menacing.

These are impressions made by Hollywood, and have no basis in reality. But maybe because we're used to seeing dogs portrayed this way, we subconsciously assume that big black dogs might be scary.

Black Cats Evoke Superstitions

Even in this day and age, there are still some people who may believe that a black cat is bad luck. Black cats are often the poster kitties for Halloween, which perpetuates those ideas year after year. In an animal shelter, a potential pet owner may gravitate toward the ones that are radiating cuteness without even trying. But people who own black cats can tell you that they are just as sweet and adorable as any other cat.

How Adoption Organizations Are Helping

Adoption organizations across the country are doing more to address Black Dog Syndrome. Some take special care to place the black dogs and cats in kennels that have the best lighting and are at eye level. Some put their black animals in brightly colored capes or other adornments to help them stand out. Some hold special adoption events, and sponsoring companies provide special incentives and discounts for adopting black dogs or cats. And many are simply getting the word out to the media and online, making sure people are aware of the problem — like we're doing right now!

Consider Adopting Black Cats and Dogs from Your Local Shelter or Rescue Group Animal Shelters

If you're thinking of adopting a pet, please consider the sweet, lovable black cats and dogs when choosing the right pet for you. If you're not ready to adopt, consider fostering. A fostered pet has the opportunity to meet your friends and neighbors — even strangers — and display his personality. And when family, friends, or co-workers mention plans to adopt a dog or cat, show them this article. You could help save a black cat or dog just by spreading the word.