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'Black dog syndrome:' Do you have it and can it be cured?

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A lot of people who visit the local shelter in hopes of finding their former black dog a home, or looking to adopt a dog, are clueless about black dog syndrome.

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Do you have black dog syndrome? If you've ever passed over a black dog with mournful eyes for the cute beige puppy sitting two cages over, chances are you do.

Most black dogs(this includes dogs who are mostly black, but have some white on them as well) are doomed, destined to die simply because of their color. In other words, they're overlooked, invisible to those who walk the rows at the local shelter in hopes of finding that perfect dog to take home with them.

Black labs are particularly at risk, and are euthanized at a horrifying rate because people pass over them for lighter colored dogs. Some people think black dogs are meaner than other dogs. It doesn't help that large, black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive in film and on television.

Some people believe that during the pet adoption process some potential owners associate the color black with evil or misfortune (think black cats) and this bias transfers over to their choice of dog.

Many times, a photograph doesn't do a black dog justice. Lighter colors tend to pull out variations in coat color, once again leaving black dogs to be the last adopted. Especially the larger breeds, who remain in a shelter environment longer than smaller black dogs.

This issue has been gaining media attention since the mid-2000s, when Tamara Delaney, an early activist against black dog syndrome, developed a website called Black Pearl Dogs back in 2004. Her website specifically addresses the issue, both by educating the public about its existing, as well as showcasing individual dogs available for adoption.

The website caught on quickly in the sheltering community, and helped lead many black dogs to their forever homes.

Please take a look at the photos in this slideshow. Each and every one of these dogs is out of time at Greenville County Animal Care Services, the high-kill shelter in upstate South Carolina.

It's sad that many who are looking for a dog would base their decision on a photograph, or on color at all, for that matter. One sensible rule to go by is to allow the dog to pick you. Those who have been chosen by a shelter dog know the meaning of this.

If you can't adopt, at least volunteer to love a black dog as a foster parent. Who knows, perhaps a foster failure will be in your future, and that dog will become a forever family member.

In case you haven't realized 'the cure,' black dog syndrome can be alleviated by adopting a black dog at your local shelter.

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