Back in Black: the Beauty of a Black Pet

by Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

Black is the chicest of colors. Coco Chanel once said, “A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and on her arm, a man she loves.” Gianni Versace said, “Black is the quintessence of simplicity and elegance.”

The black robes of a judge symbolize morality and justice.

The black robes of priests and pastors symbolize a connection with God.

In the 1960’s, a new generation of young people challenged conventional ways of thinking, and black became the color of individuality and intellectual rebellion.

Black is an artistic color. “Black is a force,” said impressionist painter Henri Matisse, who said he always chose black when he didn’t know what color to lay down on the canvas.

So if black symbolizes elegance, simplicity, justice, spirituality and art, then how come black dogs and cats take 4 times longer to be adopted from a shelter than their lighter counterparts?

The rescue world calls it “Black Dog Syndrome,” a well-known, but little understood, phenomenon. Black dogs and cats are often passed over by potential adopters for a variety of relatively vague reasons, like indistinct facial features and “generic” body types – issues compounded by poor lighting in many shelters – and size: large black dogs are even harder to adopt out.

Here’s an even more perplexing fact: a large majority of the black dogs at shelters who do not get adopted are Labrador retriever crosses, yet year after year, Labs top the list of the most popular breeds in the country. They are friendly, playful and promiscuous in their love of humans. They are goofy, good-tempered animals – an excellent choice for families with children.

Here’s another fact: the traditional black Lab is far and away the most popular and prevalent color of the breed – possessing sleek, muscular bodies that shine like polished ebony.

So why do black lab mixed breeds endowed with the same admirable and lovable qualities have so much trouble finding forever homes?

It makes no sense. Take a tour of any animal shelter, including the Aiken County shelter, and you will often find medium to medium-large sized Lab crosses with bubbly, affectionate personalities, just waiting for a family to love, entertain and protect.

Black dogs and cats are victims of an irrational prejudice and a genetic formula that determines color. Despite negative portrayals in literature and ancient folklore (think black cats and witches or the black hounds of hell), there is not a shred of evidence that black dogs are more aggressive or untrustworthy than their lighter colored brethren. Ninety-nine percent of the time, aggression is a function of abuse and poor training – not a function of color.

FOTAS is a network member of the Best Friends Animal Society, which is dedicated to rehoming shelter animals all over the country, and Best Friends has designated the month of May as national “Back in Black” month.

In honor of this national promotion, the Aiken County Animal Shelter has reduced adoption fees for black dogs to $33 and for black cats to $13 through May 31. This fee covers spaying and neutering, all necessary vaccinations and microchipping.

Two black Shelter puppies, Brooke and Logan, were recently adopted by this young woman and her mother. Why don’t you come on over to the Aiken County Animal Shelter like they did and take home your next best friend. By the end of the day, you will be snuggled up on the couch watching American Idol with a happy black bundle of pure love.


May 5, 2014 – May 10, 2014
25 dogs and 10 cats  SAVED

Year to Date:
351 terrific pets  SAVED