Saskatchewan sending unadoptable black dogs west to British Columbia

Debbie Lehner, manager of the Prince Albert SPCA, told CBC News 90 per cent of the cats and dogs waiting for adoption …We humans are very odd creatures. Even though we're supposed to be rational thinking beings, we like what we like and shun what we don't, even if there's no logical reason for our prejudice.

I'm talking in this case about black dogs. When I was growing up, every second house seemed to have black mutt of some kind, usually a lab cross.

But today, apparently some people are picky. Black is always in for women's fashion but it's out for dogs. In Saskatchewan, black strays are so hard to adopt, animal shelters have taken to shipping them to Vancouver Island where they have a better chance at finding a home.

Debbie Lehner, manager of the Prince Albert SPCA, told CBC News 90 per cent of the cats and dogs waiting for adoption are black.

"It's a known fact that within shelters and humane societies the last animals to ever get adopted are the black cats and the black dogs," Lehner said in an interview.

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Black cats you can sort of understand. There's a deep superstition about them because our culture associates black cats with dark forces and bad luck. It's irrational but at least it's an explanation.

But black dogs? Winston Churchill used to call his periodic depressive moods his "black dog," but I don't think that explains today's prejudice against the colour.

It's such a widespread phenomenon that animal caregivers even have a name for it: black dog syndrome.

According to the web site Black Pearl Dogs, some black dogs in no-kill shelters will die of natural causes vainly waiting to be adopted.

Not everyone accepts that colour is the real problem. A recent posting on the American SPCA's web site noted a study published last year asking people to rate dogs based on photos suggests stereotype bias about breed types influence how people rate a dog's personality more than colour.

"The black Lab was perceived as less hostile, more friendly, less dominant and more submissive than the brown pit bull, the brindled boxer, the sable German Shepherd and the black and tan Rottweiler," the article says. "The black Lab only consistently rated lower on these scores when compared to the golden retriever.

"The authors conclude, as some of us have hypothesized in the past, that Black Dog Syndrome may in fact be due to the base rate fallacy – there are simply more big black dogs in the population."

Lehner can't explain why people prefer lighter-coloured dogs and cats.

"For whatever reason, people tend to come and look at dogs and they will buy the light-coloured dogs, and walk past black dogs and black cats," she told CBC News.

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Sherry Partington told CBC News people may be influenced by photos of animals. They're more often light-coloured because apparently black dogs don't photograph well, said Partington, president of the Vancouver Island Dog Rescue Society, which has taken some of the unwanted Prince Albert pooches.

For some reason, black dogs and cats are easier to place on Vancouver Island, the society's Cecily Shaw told the Vancouver Sun. The organization took three dogs this week, flown in courtesy of WestJet.

"People don't seem to be as picky here," she said.

Maybe people are more accustomed dark colours because the weather's grey half the year.

However, black cats still face a tougher time finding homes from B.C. shelters, the Sun noted. Provincial SPCA statistics show it takes 15 to 20 per cent longer to find them homes.