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Black Dogs Face a Hard Choice at Shelter
Don't judge a dog by his color


Editor’s note: Best Friends Animal Society is kicking off their annual Back in Black 2013 campaign dedicated to finding great homes for black dogs and cats. It’s a reminder that a stigma can follow adoptable animals who are black, as they often wait longer to find their forever homes. Special adoption events will be hosted throughout the month by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, our Los Angeles and Salt Lake City adoption centers, and participating No More Homeless Pets Network partners around the country. To learn more visit bestfriends.org.

When Tamara Delaney of Woodville, Wis., volunteered to find a home for a black Labrador Retriever named Jake last year, she had no idea what she was up against. Jake, cared for by a rescue group, had already waited nearly three years for a new home. And he would wait eight more months as Delaney tried to find someone to take in the big Lab.

It didn’t matter much that Jake was a sociable dog and in perfect health. Jake’s problem wasn’t his temperament—it was the color of his coat. Jake bore the stigma of the “BBD,” an acronym used to refer to big black dogs, who are frequently passed over for flashier, prettier dogs and wind up, like Jake, waiting for years to be adopted.

“Nobody wants a black-coated dog,” rescue workers told Delaney as she tried without success to find a home for Jake. And when Delaney turned to the Internet, she found that shelters across the country were overflowing with black-coated mutts.

“Please don’t overlook our black dogs,” rescue groups pleaded on their home pages above pictures of Rottweilers, Chows and Labs sporting bright bandanas. One shelter’s website just came right out with the grim truth: “The general public is not aware of how doomed black dogs are when they are brought to a pound.”

The more Delaney learned about the numbers of black dogs in shelters, the more determined she grew to make a difference—one black dog at a time. She started by adopting Jake, the overlooked Lab. But Jake would not be the only black dog in Delaney’s life.

Her newly acquired insight into the plight of the BBD inspired her to create a website devoted to them. Last November, Delaney launched www.blackpearldogs.com and named her new site “Contrary to Ordinary: The Black Pearls of the Dog World.” Since its inception, the Black Pearl Dogs website has been visited by more than 7,500 people.

“I’m starting to become a middle-person between shelters and rescues, to get their black dogs off death row,” says Delaney, whose inbox fills with email from shelters and rescue groups asking her to post pictures on her website of black dogs who were passed up on the way to the Golden Retrievers.

When Amy Chase read about Delaney’s Black Pearl site on an Internet message board this spring, she had a big black dog of her own to worry about. Five months earlier, animal control officers had dropped off Mickie, a Newfoundland mix, at the Ohio County Animal Shelter in Rising Sun, Ind., where Chase works. Looking for ways to make Mickie more interesting to those who visited the shelter, Chase highlighted his Newfie heritage, but nothing seemed to work.

To potential adoptors, “He was just another big, black, hairy dog,” recalls Chase. Mickie was scheduled for euthanasia in May, so Chase contacted Delaney, who in turn posted Mickie’s picture on the Black Pearl website. She also cross-posted it on other adoption sites, including Jen Wold’s Gemini Rottweiler and Pit Bull Rescue, where Delaney had found Jake. Before long, Mickie was no longer just another black dog, but the focus of three optimistic women and their commitment to finding him a home.

Most black dogs have to rely on shelter staff and volunteers to steer potential adoptors their way. And indeed, many shelters take extra steps to make black dogs more adoptable, according to Kate Pullen, director of animal sheltering issues at the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. Teaching the dogs tricks, putting placards on kennels highlighting the dog’s personality (“I may just be a black dog, but I know how to balance a biscuit on my nose.”), making sure multiple black dogs aren’t kenneled next to one other—anything to catch the eye and imagination of potential adoptors.



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Submitted by Anonymous | October 18 2010 |

I am the proud mama to 7 dogs, 6 are all black, 1 is black and brown.
3 are small black schipperkes, 1 is a med black schipperke/border collie, 3 are large, a lab/chow mix and a lab/great dane mix, both black. The black and brown is a german shephard/basset hound mix. Black dogs rule in my world. I think those beautiful brown ares are like chocolate and I think they have great expression in there eyes. Any one who can't see that has no soul!

Submitted by Anne | November 1 2010 |

We love our BBD (Wilson a 3 yr old retired racing greyhound)! Shelters that have trouble adopting out BBD might want to take more of an active part in matching dogs with adopters. Both of our recently adopted dogs (the other is a beagle) where shown to us as dogs that would compliment our live style from the shelters (ie kid and cat friendly). We made the choice to adopt from local shelters that took the time to learn their dogs' personalities and could help guide the adoption decision. The other shelter in our area could not help guide us to dogs with the right temperament for our family.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 27 2010 |

I have two Black dogs at home and they rock!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 6 2010 |

I was stunned to learn that big black dogs are hard to find homes for. It's always been the opposite for me: I'm attracted to BBD's. I have one, a non-pure-bred black Lab who was a 'gimme' out of a littler of fourteen pups from a farm down the road. She has a lovely big woof and is part of our 4-footed security system, yet is also quite affectionate. Early on she took on 'Comfort The Natives' as her job description, and always knows when one of us needs a puppy -- even a 90-pound one -- cuddled up on the couch, her big head in a lap, looking up with eyes that ask: "Doe this help?"

I was recently approached by an acquaintance who has a big black mostly German Shepherd rescue dog; she thought she would not be able to keep the dog and exercise him properly due to her knees. In the end, she decided the dog was too special to give up, (he is, I'd have him in a heartbeat) and is resolved to make arrangements that will allow her to keep him, happily for them both.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 21 2011 |

I can't believe it I LOVE my black beauty, it breaks my heart. Thank god someone is doing something to help these gorgeous creatures

Submitted by carol b. | January 27 2011 |

our family adopted a large black dog 14 years ago, the best decision made by us, he is a handsome big boy, and loved by many of our neighbors!! then 2 1/2 years ago we adopted another black dog, from a local shelter, an amazing boy, with quite the personality!! what exactly gives people such a misconception of black dogs????? to know them is to love them!!

Submitted by Anonymous | February 1 2011 |

Awah I see many people with Black dogs...Black is a my favorite color (not a color) but you know what I mean...

Submitted by Anonymous | February 23 2011 |

wow, racism rears its ugly head once again. I love my black scotties.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 29 2011 |

We are the proud owners of a beautiful black and brown puppy.... who will eventually grow into a Beautiful Big Black Dog. He isn't agressive or destructive. On the contrary, he's very affectionate and playful. Most people I know have BBD's. A dogs color has nothing to do with its behaviour, or character... any more than it has with people.
It has to do more with breeding and training than color.

Submitted by Jay Hunter | April 18 2011 |

I absolutely love my BBD. I am the proud owner of my third Black Lab mix. I have adopted them from our local shelter and one came from a local rescue group. Let's face it Labs are smart, easy to train and are just the most fun dog to be with. The Black ones have the shiniest coats and we always get compliments on how beautiful he is.

So check out the BBD at your local shelter or rescue. You won't be disappointed.

Keep adopting!


Submitted by Anonymous | April 20 2011 |

This makes me so sad! I have 2 "bbds", one year old black labs, and they're the best dogs I have ever owned. Theyre playful, loving, and absolutly adorable! Give black dogs a chance people!

Submitted by Amber Little | May 19 2011 |

Thanks for getting the word out, I had no idea!

Submitted by Anonymous | May 30 2011 |

Our dog is a sweet nearly two-year old black dog with a Mohawk along her spine. She had been spending her life prior to her adoption in and out of animal shelters. What I have to say about her and all of the other black dogs out there: adopt them! You will never regret it.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 8 2011 |

I have a mixed Black lab . He was a stray and I took him in . I find this report odd because everyone that see's my dog tells me how beautiful he is . He is solid black . He also is the best dog in the entire world

Submitted by Anonymous | July 1 2011 |

I recently adopted a mixed black and tan doberman. She is the most loving and social dog I have ever seen. I had no idea black dogs were less "atractive" for adoption. But after walking my dog around town it does not surprise me. My dog is not big and still looks like a 4 month old puppy, but almost everyone assumes first that she is a boy, and second, that she is aggressive; all because she is black.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 1 2011 |

We had a tan pit mix and went back to Animal Welfare League here in Chicago to get her a brother. My son fell in love with a friend's black pitt and said he wanted a big black dog. We found my Big Boy! Jet black and shinning like a new pair of patent leather shoes-GORGEOUS! My hubby wanted a brown shephard mix but he and our 1st dog didn't have a good greeting. I had to explain to him that someone without a dog already will adopt that shephard but odds were the black dog would never get adopted. The kennel tech told him how many BBDs get passed over. When we were walking out with the dogs, a woman almost peed her pants when she our new addition! She was shocked we had just adopted that"big black dog." We brought our 70lbs, pitt/lab mix home and have loved every minute with him! He thinks he's a lap dog and I don't mind. He's one big teddy bear who wants nothing but love, and treats. I will add, I have no concerns walking my babies any time day or night- thanks to my BIG BLACK DOG!!!

Submitted by Deb | July 20 2011 |

I'm just shocked. I had no idea these wonderful black dogs faced this kind of problem. I had a wonderful black lab mix for 16 wonderful years. I wouldn't have traded him for the world. Thank you Delaney for all you are doing to help these black beauties. I will be visiting your site and letting others know also. Thank you for sharing this. www.leftygold.com

Submitted by Anonymous | August 1 2011 |

I honestly did not know that black dogs were less wanted... Sort of explains part of the reason why our black pekingese was in a foster home for almost 2 years. Even though she's not big. We never ever thought about what color of dog we wanted, we just wanted a dog with a big personality, and boy we got it! I just found out on an interview with a rescue that black dogs were hard to find homes for... This reminds me a lot of the black slave times.(Why does the color of somebody's skin or coat matter?)

Other than being hard to see at night(We have a bright pink collar on ours and her tags make lots of noise so this isn't too much of a problem) I can't see any differences to having a black dog in relation to a white dog or a tan dog.

Submitted by Eileen | August 18 2011 |

Our family just adopted a beautiful black lab from a high kill animal shelter in N.C. He is our third lab and is making a wonderful addition to our family. How sad the black labs and other BBD's are so often overlooked and are first to be scheduled for euthanasia. Thanks for your help in getting the word out to the general public. Do not overlook and ignore these wonderful pets.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 21 2011 |

A lot of people are dumb. Usually, no one wants one of these dogs unless it's in the news. I remember Patrick, the miracle dog. Everyone wanted to adopt him b/c of the high profile story. But no one wanted the other dogs that were listed that needed homes. There's thousands of Pitties, black dogs and senior dogs just like him that are being put down everyday that no one wanted. B/C they aren't "celebrity dogs", no one wants them.

-An animal rescuer that adopts the "unwanted" pets

Submitted by Allison Nastoff | August 27 2011 |

I have been blind almost my entire life, so I cannot speak to whether black dogs are pretty or not, but I can say my brother has a black dog and he is the smartest, most lovable dog you could ask for, so whether they are attractive or not shouldn't matter. Picking out a dog is a lot different than picking out a pair of shoes. It's the personality of the dog, not the color that matters. Maybe animal shelters could increase the adoption rate for black dogs by requiring people to don blindfolds before they can view the dogs! Just an idea.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 5 2011 |

I've been through the puppy thing and just recently had to put my 13 year ol black lab down. Black dogs, especially labs, show their beautiful muscle groups and shinny coat. The kids in my neighborhood just loved running up to pet and hug Rosie.

This time I was to by-pass of of the puppy stage and get a 1-2 year old purebred black female that has not had a litter.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 19 2011 |

I have a black lab mix and would not trade her for all the MULTI-COLORED dogs in the world!!! We adopted her and love her very, very much!!!

Submitted by Tarsy | November 22 2011 |

12 years ago I signed up with Golden Gate Labrador Retreiver Rescue.
I filled out my form for a 1 year old, female yellow lab.

2 days later I got a call about a 4 month old, male black lab named Gunner that ws up for adoption.

He has been and still is the joy of my life and I love him to bits.
Gunner is literally the best dog EVER!

Submitted by Brandon Velasco | November 30 2011 |

Im sorry.to hear about this. I had no idea. I have an awesome black lab mix and he has been my partner for about 9 months and I would not traid those for anything. But my Landlord said to me today that I have to get rid of him and my other dog. And I dont know what to do... They told me I have to pay $500 for each dog to keep. My parent wont help me. But I will find a way because I love them and will find a way...

Submitted by dianne | December 1 2011 |

this is surprising to me - probably because my whole life has been filled with BBDs. and i do mean FILLED.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 28 2011 |

I had a black dog and I had to move to a townhouse that doesn't allow dogs so my parents gave my dog away to the shelter while I was at school..
I'm so scared right now. I don't want him to be put down or anything.
But I don't know which shelter it was that my parents gave him to..they won't tell me...
Natsu, I hope you'll find a great owner..I know I wasn't the greatest.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 30 2012 |

That is sad. Our family once had a black lab named Trudy. We would have bought a dog before she died but we didn't because if we did we would have probably play with the puppy more than her and she would have died unhappy and sad. I am glad we didn't get a puppy now.

Submitted by Laura | December 29 2011 |

I adopted a big black dog who at been at the humane society for over one year. He was found by a shelter worker when he was about 3 months old, so one can say he never had a real home.

Well, my big black dog is a gem. He is well adjusted and gets along well with children, dogs and cats. He was a bit reserved at first, but his true personality emerged. He's quite the character!

To all those people who didn't take the time to look at and consider this wonderfuldog: your loss is my gain.

Please consider Big Black Dogs, you may be missing out on something wonderful.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 21 2012 |

I just learned of this terrible prejudice today after meeting and falling in love with a friend's 2 "new", beautiful, loving black rescue dogs - who had been in a shelter for a year. I couldn't believe these beautiful dogs had taken so long to be adopted, and I said so. To my shock, she then told me that the shelter worker said that there was a huge prejudice against black dogs, and that many more black dogs than other color dogs never get homes and had to be put down. I thought she must have been misinformed, and it sickens me to learn that it is actually true. To know my friend's loving pets nearly were euthanized due to such stupidity made me- and my family- just feel sick. In fact, I feel quite the opposite: when I went to meet my friend's dogs and saw their beautiful soft black coats and smiles (yes, smiles!), I was totally smitten, and actually my first thought was how much I just LOVE black dogs. My first dog, Judy, was a black poodle/spaniel/"whatever" mix with the most wonderful temperament and loving spirit. Mom never worried when I went out to play as long as I was with Judy, from the time she first "adopted" me at 3 years old, till her death when I was in third grade. (Of course, I was told she'd gone to live on a farm, yet I was devastated and cried for days.) I truly don't understand such inanity - or insanity. We've since had other wonderful dogs: black, white, tan, brown and white, etc., and they have all been dear, beautiful, and loved "ferociously", but none has been more wonderful than my dear Judy. I agree with all the comments I've read here tonight. Black dogs are beautiful.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 25 2012 |

Very sad indeed I have a border collie/lab mix who is mostly black and i just love her. I have never heard of the bbd syndrome, I am such a dog lover it doesn't matter to me, they are after all just little people in fury coats

Submitted by Anonymous | January 28 2012 |

i have a dog and please help me find it a good home he is white with black spots on him he is medium sized and good around other animals it is a boy and he has not been fixed?

Submitted by Jenny Benedict | January 30 2012 |

I just love the statment from Anonymous on Jan. 25 "dogs are just little people in furry coats. Each dog has his/her own personality just like the two legged humans do. If you have never volunteered at a Rescue or a Humane Society you should. They all need as much help as they can get to prevent dogs and cats from being put down. There are just not enough homes for all the pets born. We all need to get as many dogs and cats spayed and neutered as we can. If you cannot volunteer please help spay and neuter pets through your vet or low cost spay neuter programs. The black dogs and cats need the most help as we have all learned. Our 7 dogs are part of our family and are not just pets. I volunteer at Rescue K911 in Alabama and help pay for spay neuter assistance through the LMHS and Wayside Animal Hospital. Please help in your area. The dogs and cats in all colors thank you from the bottom of their little loving hearts.

Submitted by Tracy | February 9 2012 |

I've heard this a few times over the last several years and I think it's unbelievable that people would not adopt a black coat dog...I currently have 3! I have had Golden's, white coat dogs but at the same time I've always had black coat dogs!
I began to foster a dog who had a similar past. And ended up adopting him as well!

Submitted by Anonymous | February 10 2012 |

I have heard this before and its so sad, I look into a dogs eyes not how they look and I'm happy to say I am now a first time dog owner of a 4 month old puppy named lucky all black with a few spots of white and oh what a smart dog he is :-)

Submitted by virgina | March 8 2012 |

I myself prefer to have a black dog! I don`t like seeing dog hair on my clothes. I love dog and cats but like them dark. I prefer a big black dog, all my pets are dark brown or black

Submitted by Anonymous | March 23 2012 |

My parents have three big, black dogs (all rescues) and I have one of my own-- a one-eyed one! I thought the rescue people were going to throw me a party when I said I wanted the big, black, one-eyed one! He is the world's greatest (and possibly strangest) dog and I wouldn't trade him for all the flashy-looking dogs in the world. He's gentle with children and people with special needs, can act intimidating when he needs to, adores the elderly and has helped me raise newborn kittens. He's been bitten by children, roughly petted (umm, thunked) by people with no motor control, been called every name in the book by sweet elderly people with dementia and just keeps coming back for more. It's as if he knows the odds were stacked against him. When it comes to dogs, I say the bigger, the blacker, the better!

Also, don't forget about black cats-- they have a lot of the same problems but studies have shown that they actually make the best pets. There's something in the black coat that effects their personalities-- no joke!

Submitted by Don Gaudreau | March 25 2012 |

I have been looking for my dog since 9/25/11 when he got out and followed his mother who bred him here at our house when he was 8 mos. old. He's lanky, stranger shy, longer hair on neck, legs, an aussie, golden retriever mix, un-neutered, name Coby, collar with tag and phone #. Thought we had him and had humane traps set up but was another neighbor dog though people say the one they saw was him, not the one trapped. Most sightings in Danville, NH, but also Fremont, Raymond, Sandown, Kingston. Since I do not see an upload link for a photo of him. You can search his name "coby" in NH/announcements/lost and found and a posting will show his photo as I've been posting regularly. Heartbroken still and am still searching knowing anything is possible.

Submitted by Scott | May 1 2012 |

We adopted "Max" from our local Humane Society shelter because he was one of the best behaved and friendly of the many dogs up for adoption. It turned out he was fully housebroken (not one accident in over a year with us) and is great with kids and a wonderful companion and playmate. Everyone who meets him makes a comment about what a "sweetheart" he is and, as with many retrievers, he is everyone's best friend.
We are grateful beyond words that we found "Max". After we adopted him, we were told that he didn't have much time left and one of the attendants commented about the problem with placing black dogs, which was an issue we were not aware of. He is our first, but not our last, black dog. What a shame it would have been to put down such a wonderful and gentle animal due solely to the color of his coat. May the people behind www.blackpearldogs.com be blessed with great success in their efforts. Mahalo nui loa (Thank you very much) for all you are doing!

Submitted by Albertosaurus | June 2 2012 |

I have a Cavalier King Charles in the Blenheim coloration (piebald). This is a mostly white dog. Everyone loves Charlie. Strangers stop me on the street and ask to take his picture. He is very, very sweet.

It now seems that he is at least in part so nice because of his coloration. It isn't a coincidence that he's mostly white and he's so damn adorable. And it isn't a coincidence or irrational prejudice that black dogs are less so. It's a pleiotropic effect of melanin synthesis. Foxes bred for docility turn piebald. Piebald fish and birds are also less agressive . Darker animals are less completely socialized. White or piebald animals make better pets. The preference by potential adopters for light coloured animals is rational.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2012 |

Everybody sees my black dog and loves her. Strangers stop me on the street and want to pet her and take her picture. We adopted her from a shelter that didn't have any knowledge of her history. Her estimated age was about one year. She is the sweetest girl. Rational preference? More like snobs who prefer a lighter dog so that they can photograph them easily. I saw my dog and knew she was perfect. She's a black lab. I wanted a small dog, but the second I spotted my larger black dog, my exact words were, "She's the one."

Submitted by Rebecca Ross | July 13 2012 |

I have yet to see a scientific study that proves your point of white dogs being friendlier than black dogs. The Black Lab has been America's most popular breed for many years, because they are WONDERFUL. That's also, unfortunately why so many end up in shelters. It is a numbers game.
Your comments are totally unfounded. Please do your research before spouting out incorrect information that may only convince more ignorant people you are right and they shouldn't adopt black dogs.

Submitted by Brian | November 19 2012 |

What a load of bull, SHAME ON YOU!

Submitted by Anonymous | April 12 2013 |

You may think your arguement against black animals is rational but millions of dog and cat owners with black pets know otherwise.

Submitted by connie ray | June 3 2012 |

Please help if you can there are 10-12 black lab puppies at the rowan county animal shelter in salisbury nc,they are four months old and they will all be euthanised this week,please help if you can,the phone # is 704-2167770

Submitted by Sara | June 10 2012 |

My husband and I purposely looked for a black dog and she is the best black lab EVER! I just us of this this and its heartbreaking to hear :(

Submitted by Anonymous | June 16 2012 |

It makes me so happy that there are people out there making people aware of this. Thank you!! About a year ago my dad told me about the problem with BBD and in the fall when I started looking at a shelter I saw how real it is and it broke my heart. I then to decided to adopt a BBD and it was the best decision I could've make. I ended up with the most loving and sweet dog. I definitely plan on adopting more BBD in the future.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 30 2012 |

I have a black pitbull mix.. she is a beauty and we actually picked her because of her dark coat. she is the sweetest dog i have ever met and everyone always comments on her coat and how beautiful she is. Its sad that even with dogs people discriminate without trying to get to know them first.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 7 2012 |

How could you turn away any black dog with a good tempermant? Honestly!

Submitted by janet | July 12 2012 |

I just have to say that I was so moved at reading your words and I am sitting in a puddle from the tears.I can feel the love through your story and I am grateful for you being in this world and your website and all that you are doing for the awesome black dogs.I have a black dog now and have in the past and I am color blind to the fact that there is such a thing as a black dog,just a loving soul.I truly loved your eulogy to Jake and the part about leaving scars on our hearts.So true.Thank you.

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