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Big Black Dog Syndrome commonly seen at JC/Wash Co. Animal Shelter

January 16th, 2013 8:55 am by Jennifer Sprouse

Big Black Dog Syndrome commonly seen at JC/Wash Co. Animal Shelter

Like most dogs, Randall, a black retriever mix, likes to play, socialize with others and while a tad timid, shows signs of being very loving.
But because of the color of his coat, Randall doesn’t get a lot of attention from people looking to adopt a dog at the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter.
Known as Big Black Dog Syndrome, medium to large black dogs, like Randall, often get overlooked in shelters across the country.
According to the article “The Plight of ‘Big Black Dogs’ in American Animal Shelters: Color-Based Canine Discrimination” by Amanda Leonard with George Washington University, BBD Syndrome is the “extreme under-adoption of large black dogs based not on temperament or health, but rather on the confluence of a number of physical and environmental factors in conjunction with the Western symbolism of the color black. The color black in Western society is typically representative of evil and other negative connotations.”
The breeds most often associated with the syndrome include Labrador retrievers, chows, Rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and Newfoundlands.
Debbie Dobbs, director of the shelter, said while she doesn’t really understand it, Big Black Dog Syndrome does occur.
“We see a lot to where we just call it the black dog syndrome ... where people walk past them and don’t even really see them and don’t look at the personality, which is a shame because they have just as good (a) personality as a red dog or a blond dog or a white dog,” Dobbs said. “A lot of people think the large black dog ... might be menacing. It might be a threat.”
Dobbs said movies, media and bad owners also tend to give BBDs bad reputations.
“You cannot label dogs by their color or by their owners, especially some of the large breeds that people have made out to be so vicious and mean, can be the biggest babies in the world. Any breed can be a big baby,” she said. “My take on it is it doesn’t make a difference what color the dog is, you go by personality, temperament. That’s what you should go by when looking for a dog or puppy for your family.”
She said people often adopt animals the same way they buy cars, going strictly by looks only.
“It’s an unnecessary prejudice against large black dogs,” Dobbs said. “Color has nothing to do with it. People will go down that aisle and walk down that aisle and not pay any attention to any of them, even though they’re just as active and playful and wanting attention as everybody else.”
She said because of the shelter’s space issue, they sometimes have to euthanize animals, and in the summertime, when they see an influx of BBD, they are forced to put more black dogs down.
As for Randall, who has been housed in the shelter since Oct. 9, Dobbs holds out hope that the right family will come looking for him one day.
“He’s always playful and when he’s out in the backyard he’s romping and tearing. He does very well not only with people, but with other dogs,” she said. “He’s very personalizing. Personality-wise I think if someone had a fenced in backyard where he could romp and tear and have a ball thrown for him ... he’d love it.”
Dobbs said those looking to adopt should look past the color of the animal and should come in and interact with dogs of all colors to find the best fit for them.
“People should overlook the color,” she said. “We’re talking about lives here. We’re not talking about colors.”
Those who are looking to adopt Randall or other animals at the shelter can stop in for a visit at 525 Sells Ave. in Johnson City or call 926-8769 from noon to 5 p.m. daily.

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