PeoplePets.com While volunteering as an animal rescuer, Heather Rosenwald quickly noticed that black dogs seemed cursed: It was always difficult to find them homes.
"Black dogs are truly such underdogs," says Rosenwald, who has three dogs with her husband, two of them black. Instead, potential owners gravitate toward pets "that are colorful and eye-catching." It's a phenomenon that's been dubbed Black Dog Syndrome.
So, Rosenwald, who's from the greater Minneapolis area, decided to act. Nearly two years ago, she founded startseeingblackdogs.com, a Web site intended to raise awareness about the plight of black dogs by providing shelters and rescue groups with no-cost public relations, marketing resources and ideas (like using Yahoo Groups service to promote adoptions) to help them boost adoption rates for black dogs. Now there's a Facebook group, too, called Start Seeing Black Dogs.
The problem, Rosenwald says, is that black dogs and black cats are often considered plain or even threatening. Among lighter-colored dogs at a shelter, they are hard to notice. Rescue groups had so many "wonderful mixed-breed black dogs available, and adopters were overlooking them," she says.
And for adoption Web sites, ink-colored animals are tough to photograph. Pictures often look like a "black blob," Rosenwald explains. To get the attention these dark dogs, and cats, deserve, she says rescue groups should photograph them in an unshadowed area with indirect natural light, or highlight dogs with colorful bandanas.
The adoption problem doesn't extend to black purebred dogs, such as Portuguese water dogs, black Labrador retrievers or black poodles. Those dogs are often saved from shelters by breed rescue groups, Rosenwald tells PEOPLEPets.com, but "mixed-breed black dogs don't have advocates the same way." Consequently, they face a greater threat of being euthanized.
Rosenwald hopes her organization can change the way people perceive black animals. "They bring such happiness to us," she says of her dogs. "And I wanted to help other dogs find a happy home."