October 1st is National Black Dog Day.
So what’s that all about? Why do we need a day especially for black dogs?
It turns out that for a long time it’s been thought that the black dogs in a shelter don’t get adopted as often as other dogs with lighter colored fur. Many workers at these shelters believe the black dogs are the last to get adopted and the first to get euthanized.
In fact, there’s even a name for it — black dog syndrome.
Animal shelters often use the term BBD, or big black dog, to describe the type of larger dark-colored dog that is supposedly typically passed over by adopters.
Causes of Black Dog Syndrome
There are lots of theories as to why big black dogs are passed over by people looking to adopt a dog. Here are a few:
- Stigma against certain breed types.
- Large, black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive in books, movies and on television.
- Potential owners associate the color black with evil or misfortune (similar to the common superstition surrounding black cats).
- Shelters often feature photos of available dogs on their website and since it’s harder to get a good picture of a black dog, lighter-colored dogs stand out more when potential adopters are checking out photos on the shelter’s website.
In reality, black dogs are no different than their lighter furred counterparts. It doesn’t matter what color a dog is, they have the same needs for food, shelter and exercise. Dogs pretty much all like to be petted and loved on, and to have fun with their humans.
But whatever the reasons, the belief that black dogs are at a disadvantage to getting adopted from a rescue shelter prompted the establishment of National Black Dog Day.
Who Started National Black Dog Day?
This holiday was created by Colleen Paige, a pet lifestyle expert and animal rights activist. The story is that back in 2013 she went to an animal shelter to adopt a pet dog and discovered a seriously injured black dog.
It was obvious from the dog’s condition that the dog’s previous owner had beat the dog to cause such severe injuries. The staff at the animal shelter told Colleen that “since no one wants a black dog, we may euthanize her.”
Being an animal lover, Colleen couldn’t leave the dog behind, so adopted the pup and named her “Sailor”. Even with good medical treatment and food, it took the dog about a year to get over her traumatic past.
Sailor passed away from incurable liver cancer on October 1st at 14 years of age. That’s why Colleen Paige chose October 1st to be “Black Dog Day“, as a way of celebrating her dog’s life, and to encourage people to adopt black dogs, and keep Sailor’s legacy alive.
The Counter Claims to Black Dog Syndrome
While the belief persists that black dogs get adopted less, there are studies and people speaking out saying that’s not really true.
According to ASPCA Vice President of Shelter Research Dr. Emily Weiss,
“New pieces of research have found that there is no indication that they are less likely to be adopted. We just conducted a piece of research looking at various traits that drive people to adopt and color did not play a role at all. It busts this myth completely.”
Two studies from the ASPCA, one looking at people’s reasons for adoption and another at animals’ length of stay on the shelter floor, found that adopters don’t really care what color coat an animal has. And specifically that black animals do not in general remain in shelters longer.
Still the belief persists.
But the bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter what color coat a dog has, any day is a good day to adopt a dog.
And that includes October 1, National Black Dog Day.