Three big, black puppies with scant white markings on their chests and paws scramble to the front of the kennel when people pass by.
With curious, kind and pleading eyes they wait patiently, never barking, hoping someone will give them a home outside the confines of the animal shelter. However, these dogs will likely never get adopted, never get a real home or form a bond with their master.
“These three puppies, just because they are black, probably won’t get adopted,” said Linda Bryan, employee at Wise County Animal Shelter. “The black dogs, for some reason, don’t get adopted as much as the others. Since I’ve been here, it’s pretty obvious.”
The phenomenon is called “black dog syndrome.” For whatever reason, black dogs and cats are the least likely pets to get adopted from shelters. Although it might sound strange to some, for people who have spent any amount of time at shelters and rescuing animals, the phenomenon is a reality.
“I’ve been doing animal rescues for 20 years,” said Shelly Sessums, a Decatur resident and active volunteer at Wise County Animal Shelter. “It’s a known fact that black dogs and cats are less likely to be adopted from a shelter. No one really knows why. Some people might think black dogs are more aggressive.
“But whenever the shelters start to fill up, it is predominately black dogs that will be there the longest.”
Bryan thinks it might be hard to see the dark dogs in kennels. It’s also human nature to be attracted to brighter things. It’s easier to see the face and make eye contact with lighter dogs.
“The lighter colored dogs tend to stand out more,” Bryan said.
She walks down a few kennels from the black dogs and stands before a pack of light, brindle-patterned puppies.
“Once someone sees these, those three black puppies don’t have a chance,” Bryan said. “They’ll forget about them.”
Black dog syndrome is well chronicled. It also spills over to cats. The superstition about black cats being bad luck affects their ability to get adopted at shelters.
In order to raise awareness to the issue and help get some darker animals adopted, Sessums sponsored a program this month at the shelter that waives the adoption fee for all black cats and dogs.
“When people are adopting an animal, I want them to think about how often the black pets are passed over, so maybe they will give one a chance,” Sessums said.
Also, to add to the incentive, another volunteer, Gayle Jones, has provided $50 vouchers to use at Boyd Animal Hospital to go toward spay or neuter cost, lowering the cost to approximately $30.
So far the program has helped several black dogs and kittens get adopted, but there are still many more waiting for homes, including the three big, black puppies waiting patiently in a kennel.
A fundraiser for animal shelters in Wise County is planned for noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at Texas Exhaust and Lube located at 1405 Halsell St. in Bridgeport.
The radio station 95.9 The Boss will be there. They will be accepting money, blankets, food, toys, treats and gift cards. Shelter animals will also be on hand.