Myths and negative stereotypes do not help dogs get adopted. Shelter volunteers love to use them, though, and it's hurting the dogs.
“We have so many unwanted pitbulls,” a volunteer might say to a potential adopter.
But pitbulls are far from “unwanted.” They're among the most popular types of dogs in America.
“We also have tons of black dogs,” the volunteer might say. “They've been here for months.”
Yikes! What the heck is wrong with those dogs?
We have to let go of these myths. They're just not helping dogs get home. If your shelter is full of black dogs, it's not because the dogs are unwanted. It's because your shelter has a marketing problem.
‘Black dog syndrome'
Shelter workers cling to the idea that black dogs are the last to get adopted.
“Black dog syndrome” is a negative stereotype, and I'd like to see it gone.
It may or may not take black dogs longer to get adopted, but repeating a myth does not make it a fact.
Here's why I'd like people to let go of the black dog syndrome myth:
1. It reinforces the idea that some dogs are “less adoptable.”
Shelter workers kill healthy dogs every day for “space.” If a shelter worker is going to kill 15 dogs, he's going to start with the “less adoptable” dogs.
“Less adoptable” could be any dog. It's a matter of opinion.
“Less adoptable” dogs could include pitbull dogs, senior dogs, injured dogs or black dogs.
It's terrible to think that my sweet, gentle boy could end up killed in a shelter just because he's black. Oh yeah, he's also gray. That's two strikes.
Please stop repeating that “black dogs are the last to get adopted.” People are killing healthy black dogs every day because they say “no one wants them.”
2. Black dogs are popular.
Black dogs are not “overlooked” or “the least desirable.” Black dogs are normal dogs, and they're popular! Just about everyone knows someone with a big, black dog.
The Lab is the most popular purebred dog in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club. And black is the most common coat color in Labs. Shelters should embrace that fact – “You want a black dog? We got'm!”
There's more good news. People don't always want purebred dogs. They just want good dogs, dogs that are friendly, calm and obedient. Potential adopters can be convinced to take home a mixed-breed black dog if he's a nice dog.
3. It gives rescues an excuse for poor marketing.
I could list so many ways for rescues to step up their marketing skills.
Many groups are doing amazing work, but others have no marketing ambition. They place the blame on the dogs or on the public.
“This dog's got issues.” Or, “No one wants black dogs.”
But how can a rescue blame the public if it only hosts two adoption events per month?
How can it blame the public if it doesn't post updated information about each dog?
How can it blame the public if it highlights negative information such as “he's been here for months”?
We have to let go of these animal sheltering myths.
Please, stop hurting the black dogs by calling them “unwanted.”
Instead, let's send them all home.