Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is there really discrimination against Black Dogs and Black Cats?

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Every time someone says that black cats and black dogs have a harder time being selected by potential adopters I wonder how they arrived at that conclusion. Of course every dog is created equal, and every cat is created equal.

Or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? The more we say there is difficulty being a black pet, the more it pertains?

I chose to explore this topic for Blog Action Day. I pinned interesting articles on this subject to my Pinterest board "Is there discrimination against Black Cats and Black Dogs?" http://www.pinterest.com/lizardmarsh/is-there-discrimination-against-black-cats-black-d/.

It is a complex subject. Several studies have been done and more studies could lead to even better conclusions. At the current time, however, it seems to me that it might have been a myth about black dogs and black cats having statistically lower adoption rates relative to other colors of pets.

Genetically, black is dominant, therefore more black cats and more black dogs are born. Also, there is black involved in many other colors of fur (such as "red" and "blue" or "smoke") and in patterns such as Tabby and points. A hefty article on genetics is at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_coat_genetics.

If more dogs and cats are born black - or a variation thereof - then the same relatively large proportion might enter the shelters, and the same proportion might be adopted or rescued versus killed. The remaining pets who don't get adopted - or take longer to be adopted - might appear to be a preponderance of black ones but this could just be a mathematical function of there being more to begin with due to genetics.

Thanks to Kathryn H. who is the only one I have personally known to say that since more black pets are born, more enter the shelter system, and more are adopted. I was directed by Kathryn to articles by Dr. Emily Weiss, particularly "Black Is The New White" http://www.aspcapro.org/blog/2014/06/18/black-new-white which to me makes the points very well. We do not necessarily have a Black Cat Syndrome and a Black Dog Syndrome working against us when we work to promote shelter or rescue pets for adoption. We have to work very hard to showcase each and every pet of any color so they are seen and chosen by the perfect forever guardians, but we do not necessarily need to feel sorry for black pets for being perceived by the general public as "less than." Perhaps the public in general has no problem with their color.

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As far as superstition, appearance, status or other subjective feelings coming into play, the researchers have not proven that these lead to low adoption rates. The Wikipedia entry for Black Cats lists several superstitions and so many are laughable, for instance, in Germany some people believe if a black cat crosses in front of a person's path from left to right they will have good luck but if from right to left they will have hard times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_cat).

There are indeed subjective reasons that come into play, but not necessarily having to do with color. For instance, one reason people have difficulty choosing a pet is when there are too many choices. That is, if they view a smaller selection of adoption candidates, they can more easily make a choice than if the group of dogs or cats is very large, as explained by Dr. Weiss in "Syndrome? Myth? Fact?" (http://www.aspcapro.org/syndrome-myth-fact).

So perhaps the discrimination against black pets is a myth. Regardless, there should be no pets without a home, and no orphaned pets put to death in a city or county "shelter" unless their health has been impacted such that there is absolutely no hope of recovery and they are in severe distress or pain.