Shelter fees cut to aid black-pet adoptions

Bella, a black dog that came to Roice-Hurst Humane Society from a possible hoarder, had 10 puppies, three of which are black.




Roice-Hurst Humane Society, a no-kill shelter, is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization funded by donations and fees but not government contributions. The society:

■ Adopted out more than 1,000 animals in 2012.

■ Increased adoptions by 55 percent compared to 2011.

■ Adopted 760 animals through Oct. 31.

■ Operates on an annual budget of about $550,000. 

■ Spends $15 per day per animal to operate.

■ Is staffed by 11 employees and more than 300 volunteers.

­ Source: Roice-Hurst Humane Society

Appearance leads the list of reasons people decide to adopt an animal, but coat color is not a factor, according to studies by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Two ASPCA studies conducted in 2012 claim the color of an animal’s coat does not influence a person’s decision to adopt and does not cause dogs or cats to remain in shelters longer.

Yet according to staff at Grand Junction’s Roice-Hurst Humane Society, black-coated animals may wait weeks, sometimes months, longer than other animals to be adopted.

“As a general rule, across the country, we have about 9,000 dogs coming into shelters every year that do not get adopted and a big majority of those are black,” said Judy Bowes, Roice-Hurst’s general manager.

So much, apparently, for national studies.

The problem is serious enough to warrant a special promotion during the month of November called Back in Black. Until Nov. 30, the fee to adopt a black pet from Roice-Hurst will be cut by 50 percent, Bowes said.

The national Back in Black campaign, now in its third year, is sponsored by Best Friends Animal Shelter, the largest no-kill shelter in the country, she said.

“Black animals are the most overlooked adoptable pets,” according to the shelter, but that begs the question: why?

The psychology of color could explain the prejudice, but opinions about the psychological impact of black are split. 

Among some, black suggests darkness, as in black-robed witches accompanied by black cats performing black masses concealed by the black of night.

Among others, it suggests sophistication, as in men in black tuxedos accompanied by women in short, black skirts dancing the Lindy hop under starry night skies.

Bowes said superstitions about black cats and bad luck could play a role, but a more likely reason is that black animals simply don’t photograph well.

People searching for a pet online or in the newspaper might skip past a black animal because a dark photo could fail to reflect the animal’s good health or friendly demeanor, she said.

Black animals can also be overlooked in a sea of more colorful dogs and cats, Bowes said. The shelter holds, at a maximum, about 50 dogs and 40 cats, and is frequently full.

But these explanations also fail to illuminate the apparent prejudice.

First, Bowes claimed, the society’s photographers do excellent work, as any visitor to its web page can see.

Second, the American Kennel Club lists the Labrador retriever as the most popular dog in the United States, and Grand Junction is no exception.

“This is a big lab community,” Bowes said. “People just love Labradors in this community and we have a lot of black labs come through our shelter. People just love them. This a big-dog town.”

Whether the prejudice against black animals is truth or fiction seems to matter less than the success Roice-Hurst enjoys in adopting the animals out.

The promotion was working well as of Sunday, when the shelter had only two black dogs left for adoption. With about two weeks remaining for the Back in Black promotion, Bowes expected many more black animals will be emancipated to live with loving families before Nov. 30 — all at a 50 percent discount.

“This is animal-loving town,” Bowes said.


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