Tuesday 20 August 2019

WATCH: 'Black dog syndrome' - Why 'shallow' pet owners overlook dark-coloured animals in pursuit of perfect pics

'Pet owners are actually very shallow. They want the ones that have the little moustaches if they’re cats, they want the dog with the patch over the eye.'

A dog at the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals
A dog at the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals

Niamh Lynch

Any dog could be a man’s best friend, right?

Not according to Gillian Bird, Head of Education and Media at the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (DSPCA), who says that she sees “black dog syndrome” every day - a phenomenon where darker-coloured animals are passed over for adoption in favour of lighter-coloured pets. And it doesn’t just affect dogs.

“There is a lot of talk about how it is very difficult to rehome black dogs and black cats or dark-coloured animals generally - and it’s actually true. People prefer to go for animals that have clearer markings, they often prefer to go for the lighter colours.

“Pet owners are actually very shallow. A lot of pet owners, when they’re coming to adopt an animal, they don’t look at the personalities, especially when it comes to kittens or puppies,” said Ms Bird.

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Kittens at the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals

“What they’re looking for is the markings. They want the prettiest animal, the ones with the most striking markings. They want the ones that have the little moustaches if they’re cats, they want the dog with the patch over the eye.”

Black dog syndrome also applies to taking pictures of the adorable pets. “We use social media to show off our animals. And it can be very very difficult to actually photograph a dark-coloured kitten or a black cat.

“You can’t photograph a black cat against a black T-shirt, you have to have it against a nice light-coloured background. Sometimes we have to fiddle with the filters and the lights and get the flash the right way to see if we can pick up the features and the personality.”

“It can be off-putting for some people if there’s a situation that they want to be putting them up on Instagram - maybe that is a reason people don’t want the dark-coloured pets.”

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A dog at the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals

Does the superstition surrounding black cats play a part?

“I think superstition used to have a part to play and it probably still does. But I think it’s a lot to do with aesthetics.

“And that’s not fair on the animals because some of the quieter, older, darker-coloured animals have fantastic personalities and make much better pets than your loud and boisterous little black-and-white kittens.”

“Every animal should be judged individually for their personalities rather than appearances.”

But Ms Bird says that the only animal black dog syndrome doesn’t affect is horses.

Whatever the colour, the DSPCA’s message is still the same: “We have lots of animals here looking for homes. Adopt, don’t shop!”

The DSPCA was founded in 1840 and adopts out around 2,000 animals per year. The organisation is situated in their Rathfarnham facility, which opened in 2003.

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