NEW PORT RICHEY — The baffling trend has emerged in animal shelters across the country.
The prospective pets are cute, playful, kind — but if they have black fur, they tend to be the last to find a home.
If they find a home at all.
Shelter officials have a name for the phenomenon: Black Dog Syndrome. Black dogs and cats often have the lowest adoption rates — which in some shelters makes them more likely to be euthanized.
"It's one of those things you hear about in shelters," said Gail Armstrong, executive director of the SPCA Suncoast, which is a no-kill-for-space shelter.
The folks at the SPCA Suncoast hope to take a bite out of the problem with a new "Black Friday" event: The shelter on Congress Street will cut the adoption fees in half for all black dogs and cats today, Saturday and Sunday.
Armstrong hopes the event will generate interest in the pets who have been overlooked because of their fur.
What fuels the phenomenon? Armstrong has several theories.
Superstition has held black cats as unlucky for centuries. Hollywood hasn't done the dark-furred kind any favors, either. The snarling protector of Damien in The Omen was black. Lassie, Beethoven, Hooch and those 101 Dalmatians weren't.
Part of the problem may simply be the space and lighting in the animal shelter.
"People have to look at a lot" when they're visiting the animals, Armstrong said. "Something about an animal that stands out on a quick glance — that's what they take a look at.
"Dogs that are all black — when they're in a little kennel, it's very hard for them to present themselves well," she explained. "It's a small area. Their facial features don't pop out at you. It's just easy for people to overlook them."
But there can be easy fixes.
"Sometimes you stick a bandana on them," she said, "and away they go."