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Black Dog Syndrome: Animal Shelters Cut Fees To Aid 'Back In Black' Pet Adoption

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There may not be hard data to support it, but many animal shelters say they've noticed that their black-coated pets end up waiting longer to get adopted.

November marks the third annual Back in Black month, a national animal adoption promotion aimed at cutting or waiving fees for black cats and dogs to help boost their chances at finding homes.

According to Colorado's Grand Junction Roice-Hurst Humane Society, "black animals are the most overlooked adoptable pets." So to help the pets find homes, the center is cutting the adoption fees on their black-coated pets in half.

“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,” Judy Bowes, general manager of the Roice-Hurst Humane Society told The Grand Junction Sentinel.

The disparity is often called Black Dog Syndrome or Black Dog Bias.

"What we've learned is that large black dogs, and also black cats, tend to be the last ones to get adopted from shelters," Kim Saunders, the head of shelter outreach for Petfinder.com told ABC News back in 2009. "As a result, there are more of them in shelters and [they] are euthanized more because of the lack of space."

A recent report by the "Today" show however said the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has refuted the argument dogs and cats are less likely to be adopted because of the color of their fur, calling it a "myth."

“If a shelter has 10 black dogs and one white dog as compared to one black dog and 10 white ones, the length of stay will probably be different for the black dog in each case," ASPCA Vice President of Shelter Research Dr. Emily Weiss told "Today." “The adopter might be more drawn to the unique dog whether that is the one white dog out of 10 black ones or the one black dog out of 10 white ones.”

But the "myth" remains highly disputed, and animal welfare workers say they can't help but notice the disparity despite the lack of hard data.

"It is not a hoax. There is definitely anecdotal evidence. There haven't been any definitive studies to absolutely prove that the phenomenon exists but it is something commonly accepted by shelter workers as truth," Inge Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C., told USA Today.

Black-coated pet adoption promotions are ongoing for the month of November in over 175 local animal groups around the country this year, as it has been shown to help in years past.

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