Big, black dogs having trouble finding homes
When Aaron Jones walks Gozer, his Rottweiler-hound mix, people cross the street to avoid them. Mothers scoop up their children. A lost motorist once...
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — When Aaron Jones walks Gozer, his Rottweiler-hound mix, people cross the street to avoid them. Mothers scoop up their children. A lost motorist once rolled up the windows and drove off after seeing the dog. One woman screamed.
"He's the nicest dog I know," said Jones, 33, of Oakland, Calif. "It's hard to understand all the fear."
Gozer isn't aggressive and doesn't look mean or bark, Jones said; people are afraid of the dog purely because it's big and black. As a puppy, Gozer was passed over for at least a month before Jones took him home.
According to animal-shelter officials, big, black dogs like Gozer have more trouble finding a happy home than do other dogs. Some shelters even have a name for it: "Big-black-dog syndrome."
Nobody tracks the problem nationally, and local shelters often keep only limited data on the sizes, breeds and colors of the dogs that are adopted or put down, according to the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
"But anecdotally, that's what we hear from shelter after shelter: Big, black dogs just don't get adopted," said Stephen Musso, executive vice president of the ASPCA.
At the city animal shelter in Rogers, Ark., big, black dogs almost always make up the bulk of the animals put to sleep each month. Last month, 13 of the 14 dogs euthanized were such dogs, mostly Labs, shepherd mixes, pit bull mixes and Rottweilers, said Rhonda Dibasilio, manager of the city Animal Services Department.
It's not just that large dogs can be frightening: Animal shelters say black dogs of all sizes are difficult to photograph for online listings and are hard to spot against the shadows of their crates and cages in dimly lighted kennels.
Older black dogs with a little white in their muzzles can look elderly. Bigger breeds such as German shepherds or Chows aren't as fashionable as small, cuddly lap dogs.
Then there's the reputation. The idea of a big, black dog unleashing destruction is a common theme in books, movies and folklore as diverse as "The Hound of the Baskervilles," the "Harry Potter" series and "The Omen."
It doesn't help that a quirk of dark-dog biology has led to an overabundance of large, black dogs, said Alex Yaffe, who founded Heartland Lab Rescue, a network for rescuing abandoned Labrador retrievers in Oklahoma. Labradors and pit bulls are resilient dogs who tend to have big litters of five or more, which increases overpopulation.
The Web site blackpearldogs.com, devoted to increasing public awareness of the "big-black-dog phenomenon," offers some lighthearted reasons to adopt a big, black dog: Their color doesn't clash with furniture or clothing, hides dirt well and is easy to accessorize. In other words, black dogs could be the new black.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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