Watch CBS News

'Black Dog Syndrome' Affecting Adoption Rates At Shelters

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - We'd like to think all pets up for adoption have a fighting chance for a new home, but it turns out that they don't.

A lot of sweet, friendly, playful dogs are at a disadvantage and it has nothing to do with their breed.

Days can turn into weeks and sometimes months for certain dogs and cats up for adoption.

A 1-year-old lab named Harley at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is friendly, playful and is seemingly the perfect dog.

However, a month has gone by and he's still waiting.

The Humane Society said the reason could be as simple as the color of his fur.

"When we have big, black dogs in the shelter, a lot of people's eyes travel to the white dog or the brown dog as opposed to the black dog. So, a lot of them take a lot longer to get adopted," Gretchen Fieser said.

It's a phenomenon known as Black Dog Syndrome.

"The Black Dog Syndrome is a situation that happens with actually black animals both black dogs and black cats where they tend to be looked over in shelters really because of several reasons. First of all, there's misnomers that black equals evil these days still, so people are afraid or think it's bad luck to adopt a black animal," Dan Rossi said.

But superstition is only one reason.

Another could be what shelter employees call a subconscious response.

"Anybody who walks into a clothing store or even when you're driving down the road, your eye naturally travels to the lighter colors," Fieser said.

What may be hurting their chances even more? Bad marketing.

As more people use the Internet to find their new furry friend, a bad picture could doom a potentially great pet.

"The other problem with it is, they don't photograph real well when they're in the kennel situation. These days a lot of people look online before they adopt, so you can't see the details as well with a black animal like you can with a multi-color or white animal," Rossi said.

"We have bandanas and certainly during Steelers season we sometimes put them in jerseys and now that the Pirates are hot we put them in Buccos' jerseys, that sort of thing. Anything to try and get them a little more play so people see them," Fieser said.

Whatever the case may be, animal rescue organizations hope the next time you look for a pet, consider a black dog or cat. In fact, some shelters offer specials specifically for black animals.

"Right now we have a black and white special going on for any of our animals that are black or black and white they're half price this week as well," Rossi said.

Shelters nationwide coined the term Black Dog Syndrome back in 2004.

There are no real statistics on it, however it is documented that the average dog or cat spends about 18 days in a shelter before being adopted.

For black animals, it's about 30 days or longer, especially cats.


More Local News
More Reports From Kristine Sorensen

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.