Is color key in pet adoptions?

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AIKEN - Sandy Larsen just doesn't get it.

Donna Hasty (left) and Elaine van der Linden with Molly's Militia play with Tadpole, Shrek, Solo and Lucas at  Mrs. van der Linden's home in North Augusta. Some shelters find that black dogs are less likely to be adopted.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Donna Hasty (left) and Elaine van der Linden with Molly's Militia play with Tadpole, Shrek, Solo and Lucas at Mrs. van der Linden's home in North Augusta. Some shelters find that black dogs are less likely to be adopted.

She's got a black cat.

Her boss has a black dog.

But far too often, potential pet owners come into the Aiken County Animal Shelter where she works and scoff at the prospect of adopting a black animal.

"Stupid superstitions," she says bluntly.

It's an ugly little truth that not many people know but pet shelter workers have picked up on: Black dogs are less likely to be adopted, and therefore more likely to be euthanized than dogs with coats of other colors, shelter workers say.

It's something they've noticed, they say, but not something they've documented with statistics.

"I have sat at this window and said over and over again when they turn their noses up at black animals, 'That's ridiculous! I've got a black cat!'" Ms. Larsen said. "The color doesn't mean anything. It's the way you love them."

But animals of a certain hue are being blacklisted, though being a pure-blooded, fuzzy dog helps.

In the past two weeks, Ms. Larsen said the county animal shelter adopted out 22 pets - only two of which were black.

One was a black puppy taken in by Molly's Militia, a local pet rescue group.

"I've just never been able to figure it out," said Elaine van der Linden, the group's director. "Maybe they think other colored dogs are prettier."

She said her group often takes in black dogs - black is one of the most dominant colors for canines - just because she knows they'll need more help finding a home.

See a black dog in the pound, she said, and "you know that dog has less of a chance than other dogs."

Ms. Larsen said black animals are often associated with evil and superstitions, particularly black cats. They're also often seen as dark omens that bring bad luck if one crosses your path.

But what about the black dogs that end up on the shelter's death row?

Ms. Larsen said black dogs are harder to photograph, leading some people to pass over their pictures on adoption Web sites.

Black dog specters can be found throughout literature, but Ms. Larsen says people might just be afraid of black dogs.

Even worse than normal black dogs are big black dogs, Ms. van der Linden said. They "stand almost no chance," she said.

Even though labrador retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the country - No. 1 on the American Kennel Club's top dog list - black lab mixes "are the No. 1 dog in the shelters that stand absolutely no chance," Ms. van der Linden said.

She theorizes that it's because those dogs can be more rambunctious than people want to risk.

Priscilla Crisler, the kennel operations manager for Augusta Animal Services, said she thinks it's just because there's so many of them.

Being taken to a shelter is a "death sentence" for lab mixes, Ms. Crisler said, confirming that black dog syndrome is also a problem in Richmond County.

But she has a different theory why: "I think it's mostly because the shelters are poorly lit."

People looking for a pooch "tend to pass them up because they can't see them that well," she theorized.

Linda Fulmer, the manager of the Columbia County Animal Shelter, said she's heard of black dog syndrome but doesn't think it applies to her clinic. She said that around Halloween, however, her shelter refuses to adopt out solid black or white cats for fear that they could be harmed in a prank.

Whatever the reason, Ms. Larsen thinks it's all "just a bunch of nonsense" that hurts an animal's chances of going home with a new family.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.

HOW TO HELP

To watch video of adoptable pets and learn more about how to adopt animals in the CSRA, visit our Pets section at http://chronicle.augusta.com/pets/.

Comments (13) Add comment
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Waymore
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Waymore 08/12/07 - 09:27 am
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Dog racism rears it's ugly

Dog racism rears it's ugly head! There is nothing prettier than a black Lab, black German Shepherd, or a black cat. I have a black cat and he reminds me of a mini panther.

gab91494
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gab91494 08/12/07 - 09:35 am
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Knowing the "race" issue we

Knowing the "race" issue we have here in the area, I think this is the last story that should have been published. On the other hand, I do not know why it is so hard to adopt out a black pet, they are some of the most prettiest animals around. Their coats are usually shinier, softer, silky. I agree Waymore, there is nothing like a black lab, for we have one. I love to see a black animal. We actually prefer to have pets whose coats are black.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 08/12/07 - 09:45 am
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Animal Shelter plays Race

Animal Shelter plays Race Card !!!!!!!.....LOL...(thats a joke folks !!!)

maktheknife
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maktheknife 08/12/07 - 11:22 am
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This is what we have come

This is what we have come down to. It's not enough to fan the flames of racism in every avenue of life here in Augusta, but now we have to bring our pets into the fray? Give me a break, is this really news that needed to be put in our newspaper or something we should see in a tabloid like the Nat'l Inquister? Shame on the Chronical for publishing this trash and passing it off as news.

LeedsUTD
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LeedsUTD 08/12/07 - 11:41 am
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Get a grip gentle

Get a grip gentle readers...the story is a valid one relating to a trend noted by some very kind-hearted local folks. Anyone who translates this into racism is making a statement about themselves.

saaly30
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saaly30 08/12/07 - 11:47 am
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obviously if you know

obviously if you know anything about dogs and shelters you know this to be true!!! And if you translate racism out of this you are a racist yourself. Normal people would never think of that!!!

saaly30
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saaly30 08/12/07 - 11:48 am
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HHHHHMMMMM we are talking

HHHHHMMMMM we are talking about saving black dogs lives lets translate that into racism....Real Smart!!!!!

gagirl40
113
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gagirl40 08/12/07 - 01:27 pm
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I am white and all the dogs

I am white and all the dogs I've ever owned, all 6 of them, were black. And you know, I never thought about that until I read this article. The last two we adopted were from Molly's Militia. All were loving, sweet dogs. I don't know, maybe because our other dogs were black, and we loved them so much, we just gravitate towards black dogs. Also, some people like to get certain breeds of dogs. Like Cocker Spaniels for instance, most of them are blond of red. Or Maltese, and most of them are white. Hmmm...something to ponder.

nofrills
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nofrills 08/12/07 - 03:32 pm
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I have worked at various

I have worked at various shelters doing free painting and I couldnt help but notice that they had more black dogs and cat than any other colors and they had atleast 10 lab mixes that were so loveable. What is sad is that there are no laws to protect senseless breeding. We need to stop letting our dogs and cats run lose if they are not fixed. If we fine people the cost of fixing their animals then we could begin helping all colors

bone
23
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bone 08/12/07 - 05:20 pm
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i don't know where to begin

i don't know where to begin on this one - there are so many angles of approach that i can't possibly pick a best one. i'll just start with these: are black dogs more likely to be incarcerated / euthanized because they receive worse legal council than dogs of other colors? are black dogs more likely to commit acts of aggression because they are raised to believe dogs of other colors have wronged them in the past? points to ponder...

gagirl40
113
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gagirl40 08/12/07 - 09:48 pm
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Oh bone..you crack me up!

Oh bone..you crack me up!

jnwakor
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jnwakor 09/06/07 - 09:11 am
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please go to

please go to http://animalrights.meetup.com/217/?gj=sj2 if you are interested in animal rights in our community.

jnwakor
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jnwakor 09/06/07 - 09:19 am
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nofrills is right: senseless

nofrills is right: senseless breeding is the main reason we have animal overpopulation. Making spay & neuter mandatory as well as educating the public on pet ownership can help drastically reduce or even eliminate the numbers of animals going into sheters.
Next to not having room or other resources to care for an animal, behavior problems are a reason people put their animals in shelters. Employing an animal behaviorist to work with people who want to drop their pet a shelter (to educate them on how to stop the problem behavior) can help people decide to keep the pet as opposed to abandoning it.

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