The Time of Year to Think About Colorblind Adoptions

I see pumpkins everywhere in my neighborhood reminding me that Halloween is right around the corner. This might be a good time to repost the following blog that I wrote a couple years back. Enjoy!

Dr. Nancy Kay with her dog Lexie (all black before her muzzle turned grey)

Whenever I meet with a patient (the pet) and client (their human) for the first time I always ask some version of, “How long have you two known each other?” I love watching my client’s face light up as they recall that first moment of kitten or puppy love.  I delight in hearing the wonderful and amazing tales of how their lives managed to cross paths. If my patient happens to be a black cat, I always provide kudos to my client for having performed an extraordinarily good deed. You see, black kitties are notoriously more difficult to find homes for than are cats of other colors. Perhaps this is related to black cat Halloweenish superstitions. What I hadn’t realized, until now, is that black dogs are also more difficult to place than their colorful canine counterparts.

According to an NBC News article by Emily Friedman, just as is the case for black cats, large black dogs tend to be the last ones to be adopted from shelters. There are a few theories as to why. Many shelters offer no natural lighting, making it hard for the face of a black dog to stand out. It is more difficult to distinguish their facial features than it would be in lighter colored dogs or those with contrasting markings. Kim Saunders, the head of shelter outreach for the Web site believes that black dogs are overlooked because they don’t photograph as well as lighter colored animals. When people are shopping for the next love of their lives, they are looking for a face that stands out with special appeal. Some theorize that it is human nature to be drawn to things with more vibrant color or riveting hair coat patterns. Placing solid colored black cats and large black dogs can be so difficult that some shelters run promotions and try to create more color and appeal- necks adorned with colorful scarves, discounted adoption fees, and even superhero names.

When you are ready to begin searching for the next canine or feline love of your life, I encourage you to pay special attention to those that are solid black in color. They’re in need of a special advantage when it comes to landing in the type of loving, caring home that every dog and cat deserves.

Have you ever adopted a dog or cat with a solid black hair coat? I would love to hear your story.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.





Be Sociable, Share!

26 Comments on “The Time of Year to Think About Colorblind Adoptions

  1. There are many reasons for Black dogs not geting adopted. The biggest one is for some reason most people are afraid of Black Dogs especially children. I have 3 black labs. They are therapy dogs. I have found that people tend to back away from them an go up to other dogs instead.
    I volunteer at a shelter and made the cutest flyers with black dogs on them to put on the kennels of black dogs

    They don’t clash with furniture or clothing
    Their color hides dirt well
    Black is easy to accessorize
    You can always find them in the snow

    I also did a flyer for SENIOR DOGS

    Don’t Let the Gray Face Stop You…Adopt a Senior!
    We have lots of life, love, and long walks left in us.
    We won’t chew your remote.
    We make great therapy dogs.
    We’ll sit quietly When you need someone to listen.
    We’re not old … We’re experienced

  2. Honestly the whole thing about bad luck and color in animals confounds me. I’ve never really paid any attention to it, nor do I understand it. Some of the meanest dogs I’ve ever encountered were……….blonde!. First dog as an adult was a black lab mix. Currently I have a black dog, black and white dog, 2 grey cats, one grey/white cat and 1 black cat and a foster black kitten. No color here!

  3. I love animals with black–all black cats especially–when my Samantha died at 15 years old I had to fill the “black cat size hole” in the family with another black cat–Shadow. I will always have a black cat, though our family consists of 5 cats and a dog–all rescues.

  4. I worked at a shelter for years and you are an angel for mentioning the plight of the Black Dog. I remember a dog Gus who was in our shelter for 3 months. He quickly became a staff favorite as he was so sweet and gentle but as his luck would have it he was all black. He was the perfect dog for a first time dog owner, but no one even gave him the time of day because he was all black. He began to lose his hair due to the stress of shelter life and then he quit eating. As a staff we scrambled to find friends or family looking for a great dog, we knew his time was running short.
    My dear friend Nick was looking for a dog and wanted my help because he was a first time dog owner. I introduced Gus and Nick and honestly at first Nick was wondering why I showed him the most plain and homely dog in the place and I said “friend, you must trust me this dog is a gem and I know you will be a perfect match for personality.” Please don’t judge him on how he looks he is very special. Nick being the most kindhearted person I know, jumped in with both feet. He and Gus run and camp they are best friends and he tells me at least once a month for the past 3 years how blessed he is to have Gus in his life.
    So Please folks please, please, please give the P.B.D.’s a chance!!!! (Plain Black Dog’s) You won’t regret being “colorblind”
    Kelly King

  5. At my age, I have had a very large number of dogs and cats and ALWAYS had at least one black dog and black cat. Superstitions mean nothing to me. I look into their eyes and there is a great variety of shining black, soft velvety brown and glowing gold and jade/emerald colours. My most beautiful cat “Minuit” was a stray, pure Bombay, jet black with the most incredible molten gold eyes. How can anyone discriminate because of colour? Of course we know they can and do.

    When it comes to temperament and responsiveness, I found, and still find them to be affectionate, patient, intelligent, retentive and eager. I don’t know whether colour has anything to do with these traits, but it is almost as if they know that they have a strike against them

    They are also among the most elegant animals, have a sense of self, distinguished and self-assured.

    The above is not to say that ALL black animals are perfect. Of course they are not. But at least my experience with them has been woderful. It still is: my current black cat “Serendipity” is shiny like a wet seal, has stunning green eyes and the temperament of a patient angel who tolerates my other three (K9 and Fe) companions who occasionally try to harass her (which is more than I can say for my all-white cat “Casper, the friendly Ghost”). She then makes a dignified exit from the room that no queen or empress can match.

  6. Zoey is a black Lab that was living under a bush at the terminal where I park my semi. It was in the middle of the hot Arizona summer and she had dug herself a hole under a bush to lay in to stay cool.
    I pulled up near her bed in my truck and tried to coax her to me but as is the case with most strays she refused. Since I typically have several of our 10 dogs with me in the truck I naturally had food so I put some near her bed along with some water. She ate the food and drank the water and seemed a little more interested in me so I grabbed some biscuits and managed to lure her to me with them. Once I got my hand on her she was all mine and she loved the petting and ear scratching. I wanted to take her home but with 10 others I decided to just feed and water her until I could find a good home for her.
    When I left she wanted to come with me and followed my car part way across the parking lot but gave up when she could not keep up. When I showed up at 4:00 a.m. the next morning Zoey was curled up sleeping in front of my truck which was located at the other end of the terminal from her bush and had her whole back end wagging when I got out of the car, that pretty much seal the deal. I took her home and she is now training with my wife to take over for my wifes 8.5 year old Standard Poodle service dog Heidi when Heidi is ready to retire. She is a wonderful girl and I believe that she wants to marry my 2 year old male Dobie, they are quite an item. What incredible luck it was to find her….or did she find me?

  7. When I first started fostering for a Lab rescue organization, I was told by the rescue person down south that big, black males were the first ones to be euthanized as they were very hard to place. So, I made it a point to choose black male Labs to foster. They were all wonderful, sweet and loving and seemingly ever so grateful to have been given a second chance at life. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes when I think that they would have most certainly lost their lives simply because of their color . . . . what a total shame that would have been.

  8. This is the time of the year that most black animals that are up for adoption are put on a temporary “hold” until after Halloween. Our profession has to deal with the “ugly” part of Halloween and so we do not adopt out black animals from now until Nov. first.
    We are so very lucky to have 3 extremely talented and professional photographers who donate their time and talent to our shelter. They come once a week and take amazing photgraphs of the animals we have up for adoption. Our black animals are so well photgraphed that anyone can see their wonderful expressions.
    I would love to share a couple of examples with you in the hopes that other animal shelters will seek out assistance from local photographers that might be willing to help. Our photographers said they saw a dramatic increase in their business after they began helping the animals at our shelter find homes.
    Jackie Jurasek

  9. We currently have one solid black dog and one black and red dog, both from shelters down south, sight unseen and we would not give them up for anything. We also have a red Chessie who is 14 yrs old and was dropped off in our yard way back when. we turn no one away, no matter color or age.
    Our black dog preference began years go when we found a large black lab in the middle of a busy road one rainy night. we rushed her to our vet and she was operated on and lived many years after. Several weeks after helping her we were contacted by her owner and promised a puppy from her next litter. That pup was Elmo and he was one of the best dogs ever to live. When he passed many years later and it came time to repair the holes in our hearts we visited our local shelter. Walking the runs and seeing no one who spoke to us, the attendant told us about their office dog, one who had been turned in as a stray on the day Elmo died. Off she went to get this special pup and imagine my surprise when out he walked and he was the spitting image of our dear Elmo. Many years have passed since then and however it happens, we are always united with another balck dog who in some way comes to us via dear Elmo. It has happened now four times with our current Sadie being the most recent Elmo rescue. I know not how it happens, but it happens and one more black dog finds a home. It breaks my heart to know how many others do not find homes and I see it every day on the rescue boards. we need a national spay/neuter law and more NO-Kill shelters. Of course, people should also be responsible pet owners.

  10. About black cats: my immediate neighbor rescued a feral all-black cat where they’d been living before they moved here. They live in the main house; I live in the loft suite, and we had moved in about the same time, a little over a year ago.

    Hobo, the black cat, took well to the move, because my neighbors are as doggy and catty (ahem) as I am! Hobo no longer shows signs that he was feral – you’d really never guess he was! My neighbors can go find him outside, pick him up, and bring him in, to shut him in if they’re going out for a while. They like to keep him safe.

    Hobo sometimes comes up on their roof, and peers in the window right by my computer. I was really startled the first time he did that – but it feels great to me – like having a cat when I don’t actually have one!

    A couple of times, Hobo came into my tiny dog-yard, but Camellia tends to chase him, so he now avoids that. Smart cat!

    If he crosses my path on Halloween, I will be very pleased.
    Tue, 18 Oct 2011 02:23:00
    Carol and Camellia

  11. My rescue Havanese, Camellia, is mostly white – ticked with black – has a black saddle – but – her HEAD is black! Picture is here:

    where Camellia is pretending to be an Alder log.

    Other pictures in her journals on Coherent Dog. Of course, also, I link to you, Dr. Nancy, on my links page. By the way, your gorgeous grey hair along with your dog’s black head with greyed muzzle – makes a totally gorgeous photo – a keeper, indeed.

    One thing, though. I’ve avoided getting all-black dogs because it’s hard to keep them protected from overheating in cars! – or even lounging on the deck, on hot days in summer.

    P.S. If anybody is inclined to help me sing the praises of my vets, please see my home page, here:

    for my diabetic Kumbi’s story.

    Mon, 17 Oct 2011 20:54:26 (PDT)
    Carol Whitney, with my adored Camellia Camelo

  12. I’ve heard this before – black or dark animals having a harder time getting adopted. I’ve had 7 dogs and all of them have been dark except for 2. In fact I joked at the time I had one dark and one light that no matter what I wore you’d be able to see the dog hair.

    I never selected my pets based on color – it was their personality. So sad that they are overlooked.

  13. My Izzygirl is an all black, black lab springer mix who I adopted when she was a puppy! She is the perfect mid size dog! At 43 pounds, she LOVES to fly like a bird after a chuck it ball! When she’s finished going potty at night, I find her at my back patio door. In the dark, all I see is her white cheesy smile looking through the door, as if to say, “please, just one more round of chuck it before we go night night!” I love my Izzygirl!

  14. I also heard that black cats and dogs were hard to adopt so I intentionally adopted a black cat two years ago. She is a very loving little creature and has a beautiful shiny coat. Partly because she is black, she is an indoor cat. I have had several mostly black dogs that were my best friends and also very handsome in theri own right. I would not hesitate, and in fact would seek out a black cat or dog for adoption.

  15. The two best things about adopting a black dog:

    1. Black looks good with any color.
    2. You never lose a black dog in the snow!

  16. Last year, we went to our local humane society to look at a dog after seeing its profile online. Unfortunately she seemed skittish around my husband and son, so we decided she wasn’t a good fit. As we walked around the shelter we took note of a medium size black dog sitting quietly. My husband marveled that she was so “calm among the chaos” as other dogs were barking to be noticed.
    Turns out “Pepper” was a great fit! We asked the shelter to hold her until we made arrangements with our vet for an appointment. When we went back a few days later, the woman at the shelter was surprised and said she was sure we weren’t coming back. She said, “No one ever wants a black dog.” That was the first I had ever heard of that. So glad we don’t have that philosophy! Pepper is a great addition to our home and we are so lucky to have her.
    By the way, we also got our “Annie” from the shelter. She was our wonderful companion for 15 years.

  17. My dogs have been black accept on who is black rotty mix with dalmation. I love them and when I am financialy able will adopt 2 more black dogs. I put bright colored collars on them so I see them in the dark.

  18. Emmie — love of my life, soul doggie, shiney black, silky-soft Belgian sheepdog. Smart as a whip, and loves having friends and adventures.

    Not a thing wrong with Black!

  19. I love the idea of asking ‘How long have you known each other?” That’s so much kinder than “How long have you owned her?”

    Anyway, I want to give a shout-out to this group: “Start Seeing Black Dogs” . Rather than theorizing about the reasons why black cats and dogs (mostly dogs) have lower adoption rates, they provide marketing strategies and photography tips that shelters and rescues can use to improve their placement rates. They’ve been doing it since 2008, and I think before then there was another group called the Black Dog Rescue Project.

    As for me, out of my eight cats, my oldest and most favorite is a little black cat named Tammy. She’s 15 now and still going strong. We first met when my neighbor found a tiny black kitten in a large flowerpot on his patio. We think her mom deposited her there. She’s been with me ever since.

  20. I’ve been lucky enough to have been chosen by four ‘forever dogs’ that are not only large and black, but usually the very last to be adopted or even considered adoptable – Rottweilers.

    I also fostered for rottie rescue for about 8 years, and had the pleasure of bringing about 20 dogs into my home during that time and getting them ready for their forever home.

    My first big black dog, Ben, recently passed at 12 1/2 years old from cancer – a fantastic age for a rottie. My other male, Baron, is anywhere from 9-11 years old – we don’t really know, and he’s slowing just a little. My two girls are 5 and 6 years old, and I don’t think they’ll ever slow down!

    I think I’m always going to have dogs in my life, and they’ll probably be rotweilers. While mine are not as big as most rotties, they are bigger than most dogs, and certainly not a breed that alot of people would consider, which makes me sad, as they are not only very smart and loving, they are great with my 3 and 6 yr old nephews, and recently hung out with a 9 pound chihuahua who told them who was boss – and they respected her space 100%!

  21. We’ve had a black cat (Batman), and two black lab mixes, B.B. and Yaya. All three joys, all three still missed. Both dogs had exceptional noses, and were easy going and happy to roll with events. Only exception was when Yaya got her face shaved due to The Santa Barbara Itch. She ate the passenger seat of the car in protest.

  22. I had a friend with 3 kittens, 2 calico, 1 all black. Everyone wanted the calicos, I took the black one. His name is Indigo. He is 10 now. I now have added another black cat named Amadeus and a girl black cat named Cleopatra. Both about 1 yr old. I do have other colored cats, but the black cats seem to love to be lap cats. And they are funny too. I also have 6 black german sheperds. Definitely not color blind here!

  23. When I was a kid, my parents, on a routine grocery outing, brought home an all black puppy that they got at … a Meijer’s! Yes, back in the day, evidently puppies could be sold in large box discount emporia — Meijer’s is like a WalMart. He was a cute sooty-black pup billed as a cock-a-poo. They felt so sorry for any animal being sold at a place like Meijer’s (for all of $3) that they brought him home. Johnny became a wonderful family member, beloved for many years thereafter (not that he ever resembled a cock-a-poo in the slightest!).

  24. I have been lucky to be adopted by a beautiful black girl by the name of Parker. She was dumped in a park with her brothers and sisters. As soon a s i saw her beautiful face i knew we were meant for each other. Her face is perfect and her lovely yellow eyes turn to an emerald green to show me her many mood..good or bad. I have had the pleasure of being involved in 2 black beauties live, one chosen by me ,to a grand age of 16 yrs and this one chose me by date she is nearing 14. Wouldnt have been without my girls for the last 30 years.

  25. I had a black cat that I adopted after the woman at the desk of our apt. building took her in off the street out front. She was about half grown and was running back and forth along the sidewalk, seeming desperate to find somewhere to go. The woman already had two older cats she didn’t think would appreciate a young cat, so she was looking for someone to to take the cat and I was looking for a cat.
    She was a great little cat, but many people would comment, after asking what color my cat was, “Oh, bad luck!” She was only bad luck to herself, as she was always getting herself into situations that she had to be rescued from! She managed to climb inside the wall once and it took about 20 minutes to talk her out. She ran out a back door and around the apt. house, took 2 hrs. to get her out from under a car.-she had climbed up onto the engine block. And she found lead paint behind a claw foot tub and started eating it, giving herself lead poisoning. Nevertheless she managed to live about 11 years and was a very loving little cat.