Happy Dog Times

Are Black Dogs The Victims Of Discrimination ?

Jake ResizedHave you ever tried to photograph the face of the black dog? Or even its entire body? Photographing black dogs is a major challenge. We know because our little Cairn Terrier Jake (pictured left) was black and we were never able to successfully get a picture of his face. It’s even tougher to get photographs of black puppies because of all that wriggling. The best you can do when photographing a black dog is to end up was not much more than a silhouette. The dog’s eyes, nose and mouth tend to vanish completely. Does this matter?

Yes, it matters

Thanks to the Internet there’s been a huge increase in virtual dog adoptions. There are sites such as Patch, where shelter dogs can be posted or described in blogs. This increases tremendously the potential for finding forever homes for them. That’s is the good news.

The bad news

The bad news is that this movement of dog rescue from shelters to the Internet has left black dogs at a big disadvantage. They are even frequently overlooked or judged differently in person – let alone the fact that their facial features and expressions are difficult to capture on camera.

But the migration of dog rescue to the Internet has left black dogs at a disadvantage. Not only are their facial features and expressions difficult to capture on camera, but even in person they are frequently overlooked or judged differently.

Heather Trocola of Norwalk’s In-the-Lead Dog Training said, “Black dogs get “scrolled” past online. Plus, people are nervous when they see a darker colored dog. Lighter dogs seem more approachable.”

One kennel manager pointed out that people tend to project traits onto dogs based on their color. If they see a black dog in a kennel barking they think oh, mean scary. However if there is an identical dog with a white coat barking in the same  kennel, this tends to have the opposite effect.

 Another woman that was co-founder of The Little Pink Shelter in Westport described the aversion to black dogs as a phenomenon that spans the globe and said that black puppies are the last of a litter to be adopted.

At of Norwalk, shelter manager agreed, adding that she sees black cats often passed over as well.

Transporting Southern Dogs to New England States

Unwanted puppies and dogs are now being transported from south to north thanks to virtual adoption. The southern patterns of resistance to spray/neuter plus the fact that they tend to allow their dogs to Rome means thousands of unwanted litters of puppies every year.

These transports are a win-win for nonprofit organizations like  TAILS of Norwalk. Its mission is to promote spay-neuter and end euthanasia, making transports a great solution.. Families from all over Fairfield County get the puppies they long for and the animals are spared from death row.

Black dogs from Georgia

While excited to come north for Puppy Palooza, a vet that was originally from upstate New York, described the grim situation in Madison County, GA, where she runs her  practice.

“The sheer numbers of these unwanted black dogs is overwhelming,” Andrews said. “We call them Georgia Black Dogs. There’s a good many down here partly because of color genetics — black is a dominant color in Labradors.”

“My experience up in Connecticut is that people love these dogs. Here in the south some people have a color prejudice … maybe because they are so prevalent, they say ‘Oh, it’s just another black dog,’ and they want something unique.”

The two Rs: Roaming and Reproducing

This vet described how common it is to see roaming dogs in Georgia. “Here in a rural county like Madison, it’s still farm land. There are broiler houses … 300-foot-long buildings full of chickens that supply the processing plants. Properties are separated by cattle fencing and barbed wire. That’s how cattle are controlled. But dogs can go through.”

“The response of owners down here is, ‘Well, dogs was intended to roam … You just gotta let ‘em roam,” said the vet, her tone revealing her frustration.

“It’s stupid ignorance like that,” she said flatly. “It’s not the majority, but many people say, ‘If God created an animal with a reproductive system, they’ve gotta reproduce.’”

In a phone interview, Suzanne Pittman of the Tri-State Human Society* in Trenton, Georgia (near the Tennessee and Alabama borders) shared her opinion of the let-’em-roam, let-’em-reproduce culture.

“My saying is that God created these creatures. We made them domesticated. We made it so they depend on us. We’re here to take care of them. God is watching.”

Devoted rescuer Pittman, who set up a 501c-3 and runs a thrift shop to raise money for food and medical expenses, bemoaned not only the lack of laws to protect animals, but also the lack of enforcement of existing laws.

Not enough Parvo vaccine

Sharing the story of a puppy who died in her arms after a city shelter didn’t give it the Parvo vaccine that they were supposed to, her frustration was palpable. “Getting to the city shelter is like going to the end of the world, past the sewage treatment plant, through two locked gates, down in the basement to a dimly lit room with a cold concrete floor. How can you show those dogs?” she asked.

Originally from Wisconsin, Pittman said that in Georgia, “Attitudes are ingrained.” Describing “cardboard boxes of newborn puppies left at the side of the road in the middle of winter,” and “driving past dead dogs along the roadways,” she admitted to sometimes feeling hopeless.

Worst for Black Dogs

Pittman reported that the situation is the worst for black dogs. “From what I see, 95 percent of dogs euthanized here are black dogs. Oh, they’re cute when they’re puppies, but not so cute when they grow up. They’re tossed aside like trash. Every mornng I see at least one or two strays on my way to work. It’s bleak when you get down to it,” she said, her voice trailing off. “What little we’ve done has come very hard. I like to send the dogs out of state if possible. The further north the better.”

Long-term solutions

Though the transport phenomenon is popular – Adopt-a-Dog director Allyson Halm sees the exodus as more nuanced. “I know it’s a huge trend to go down south. So they have family-looking dogs at all of the shelters. My concern is are we enabling the lack of spay and neutering down south? And, for every dog adopted from the south, that’s a dog not adopted from up here.”

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