Colorblind Adoptions

Whenever I meet with a patient (dog or cat) 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.

Dr. Kay with her dog Lexie who was solid black until 12 years of age

According to an October 9th 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.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

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, or your favorite online book seller. 

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14 Responses to “Colorblind Adoptions”

  1. Marci W Says:

    Until March of this year I had a FABULOUS flat-coated retriever. They are normall black, though some are liver colored. I’m surprised to hear of this problem placing black dogs. I’ve known many in my life, and they’ve all been wonderful creatures.

  2. Laurel Says:

    I’m reminded of the words of a shelter staff member I read once, who said, “Beneath the plainest exteriors are the kindest hearts.” It was certainly true of Molly, a shelter dog I adopted the day before she was scheduled to be put down. I thought she was a black lab/setter mix, but later determined she was a purebred Flat Coat retriever. Good food and grooming transformed her from thin and scraggly to a luxurious, shiny coat. But more importantly, her lovely soul shone through her eyes. We had seven good years together.
    Laurel, celebrating the love of dogs at

  3. Elizabeth and the Lab Crew Says:

    So true, the black dogs even the black pups are always the last ones to go at the shelter. I have a black female lab and more people are afraid of her than my other two who are in fact bigger and more energetic (nice way to say they are all over people if allowed). She is the extremely well behaved one but I still get the comment, “oh a black dog” time and time again. Heaven forbid if I walk her on a gentle leader, then I get, “oh look at the big black dog with the muzzle on, be careful”. She easily wins people over but still…

  4. Nancy Foreman Says:

    Thanks for getting the word out about this problem, Dr Kay! You might also be interested in this site
    as well as this one that lists the top ten reasons to adopt a big black dog heartlandhumanemo/

  5. Carolyn Says:

    Anyone read Temple Grandin’s newest book, “Animals Make Us Human?” I thoroughly enjoyed this book over the summer. With regard to black cats, she claims many are calmer and often make better pets due to a genetic link with their color. For her comments, see:

  6. Carolyn Says:

    Also wanted to mention that my brother has two border collie mixes. One is mainly black and the other is mainly white. Both are friendly outgoing dogs that adore meeting people. Guess which one is always approached and fussed over more than the other?

    That would be the white one…

  7. Renee Says:

    It’s interesting. I’ve always been partial to black cats, in fact we had black kitties during my childhood, and in my adult years I’ve always had at least 2 or more black kitties. Since my animals are always rescues, there are other colors and patterns in my home as well. It’s a shame how many pass up the opportunity for a beautiful relationship based on the color of the fur. It’s good to keep this topic live and in the minds of potential adopters.

  8. Twitted by kaos2calm Says:

    […] This post was Twitted by kaos2calm […]

  9. Suzette M. Heider Says:

    “Dixie” was a Black Lab totally devoted to her mistress,so much so,that when her owner fell through the garage ceiling while storing some boxes, and was badly injured, she stayed close to her side as she crawled to her phone, grabbed the cord and gradually pulled the phone down to call 911. as the paramedics came in, “Dixie” obeyed her owners weak commands of “Stay it’s ok girl” while she was treated and air lifted to the hospital because of a severe back injury, heels and abdominal injuries as well. “Dixie” did not know me but trusted me to come in and assist. I knew I could trust her as she conveyed trust with her body language by rubbing up against me and her features (eyes) were not dialated but the pupils were trustung. She is a totally black dog but color has not made her aggressive and her intelligence was truly amazing in this hectic situation.
    Dr.Kay, Please feel free to condense if you want to use it.

  10. Pat Says:

    I was surprised to learn that black dogs and cats are the last to be chosen at animal shelters. All of my pets have been black or mostly black. Black dogs are the ones I notice first out in the world. When I was a child I fell in love with a big stray black dog. The landlord would not let us have pets so I sneaked the dog onto the front porch during the day and had an arrangement with a neighbor that “Joey” could sleep in the neighbors’ barn. Joey followed me all over the town and countryside. ( A very small town in the 40’s and 50’s where leashes were not used.) When a bully kid hit me one day Joey jumped on the boy and knocked him down holding him on the ground. I had to give Joey up after that as that kids parents complained that Joey was “aggressive”. A young neighbor fellow was moving to the country in Florida. He took Joey with him. He wrote me often and visited me when he came back to visit his family. He told me wonderful stories of how many times Joey had protected him by warning him of snakes and other dangers in the swamps and woods of Florida. When I was 12 my family moved to our own house. The first thing my mother did was buy me a puppy. This was an AKC registered black and tan cocker spaniel. She was all black except her feet, muzzle and under her tail. She was my best friend for 13 years. Later in life when I was able to devote time to pets I had 2 black cats (one at a time) that were both rescues and lived long lives. Then when I finally lived in a house with a nice yard I got a wonderful big black dog from the Humane Society. She was 6 months old when I got her and lived to be 15 yrs. She looked like a flat coated retriever with long solid black fur. She was the most gentle dog I ever knew. When she died my heart was broken but I did not want to live without a dog. So within a few months I adopted a 4 month old black dog that had been rescued from animal control and fostered with her litter by a dedicated young couple. This dog is now 5 years old and a sweet companion though not without issues. She seems to be mostly border collie and thinks her purpose in life is to protect me. Sometimes she is over zealous at her career.
    So all of my pets have been black or mostly black. I suppose my soft spot for black dogs is all because of my childhood experience with that big black dog “Joey”.

  11. Robin Everett Says:

    Years ago I had a black German shepherd. She was quiet and small. Light weight coat. She didn’t really look like a German shepherd. But people would be afraid of her! They told me she looked threatening because she was so black. It’s sad when people can’t read an animal’s body language and instead rely on overt details that do not convey the information they are looking for.

  12. kathy doyle Says:

    AI have 2 BBD’s-big black dogs that I’ve adopted- also 2bbd fosters Yes it is difficult .When I speak for our shelter , I encourage those interested in saving a forever friend to go one step further and make sure it’s a BBD.


  13. Kim Cabrera Says:

    I have had the most wonderful black cat as my best friend and companion for over 12 years now. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to adopt such awesome animals. I consider all my pets my “fur children” and they are family. They are all former strays that I adopted. I’d recommend looking twice at all those loving black dogs and black cats in the shelters. They deserve to be adopted too. Give them a second look! I think you’ll be happy you gave them a chance.

  14. Marie Says:

    I adopted a Black Lab-Basset Mix. A beautiful BD is was….I say was because as he as aged he has been a “salt and pepper” beautiful dog.

    He is 11 years old and going strong. Adopting a BBD has been wonderful. He has been the best dog we have ever had!!!!

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