Black cats have been stigmatized throughout history as being evil, but make wonderful pets, according to Lisa Allison, Friends of Animals Utah’s
Black cats have been stigmatized throughout history as being evil, but make wonderful pets, according to Lisa Allison, Friends of Animals Utah's executive director. FOA Utah is hosting a "Back in Black" adoption program for black or mostly-black pets throughout November. (Photos courtesy of Friends of Animals Utah)
Throughout literature and horror-film history, a black dog is the harbinger of doom.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery "The Hound of the Baskervilles" the canine in question is based on a supernatural black dog that is found in British folklore.

A pack of black Doberman pinschers menace Robert Thorn, portrayed by actor Gregory Peck, in Richard Donner's 1976 thriller "The Omen."

Black cats don't have it any easier.

They've been accused of hanging out with witches, vampires and are the purveyors of bad luck.

These are a few reasons why animal shelters have a hard time adopting black animals to families, said Lisa Allison, executive director for Friends of Animals Utah.

"There are still superstitions about these wonderful animals out there," Allison said during an interview with The Park Record. "People still think that black pets are frightening. They think that black cats are bad luck if they cross your path."

To raise awareness of the harmlessness and lovability of black animals, Friends of Animals Utah is hosting an adoption special called "Back in Black" throughout November.

"We're running this for all- or mostly-black puppies, dogs, cats and kittens," Allison said. "It will cost a family only $60 to adopt any of these pets, and we hope people will start to understand that black animals make great pets."

In the animal-shelter community, there is a phenomenon called "Black Dog Syndrome.


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"Black animals, especially dogs, tend to spend more time in shelters," Allison explained. "Sometimes it takes up to four-times as long as their more-colorful counterparts to get adopted."

Other than the mistaken stigma of being evil, black pets are overlooked in shelters because they are simply hard to see.

"We call them the invisible pets," Allison said. "There are a couple of things that come into play that makes this happen."

One is that black animals are hard to photograph.

Black animals, such as this sunglass-donning black dog, have their own unique personalities. (Photos courtesy of Friends of Animals Utah)
Black animals, such as this sunglass-donning black dog, have their own unique personalities. (Photos courtesy of Friends of Animals Utah)

"Their photos are difficult to do effectively, particularly when they are used for online searches," she said. "If the photos don't show well, the animals aren't picked. It's as simple as that."

Another is that black pets are not as presentable.

"If you compare an all-black pet with a tortoise-shell cat or something like that at adoption centers and events, the black pets are overlooked, because they don't catch people's eyes," Allison said. "Also, if a display area is not well lit, these animals disappear in the shadows, because they are harder to see."

The "Back in Black" adoption program is nothing new, Allison said.

"It's been done nationally and there are places all over the state that are doing this," she said.

One of those Utah-based organizations is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.

"Friends of Animals Utah is part of their rescue and rehabilitation network and they are running a special to raise awareness of these black pets," Allison said.

She also thought the "Back in Black" program was a good idea because of the abundance of black cats at the Friends of Animals Utah rescue and rehabilitation ranch in Brown's Canyon.

"One day, I looked around and realized I had eight black cats in my office," Allison said, laughing.

In addition, the shelter sees more black dogs and puppies come through the system.

"At any one time, we can have up to 70 to 80 dogs that fit the black- or mostly-black animal criteria," Allison said. "So we've been doing all sorts of campaigns such as 'Can You Light Up My Life' and 'Can You See Me Now?'"

Allison, who has a black dog, said owning black pets is just as rewarding and comforting as owning colored ones.

"One of the neat things is that black pets are not generic and have their own personalities, just like other pets," she said. "Having that color isn't any more meaningful than being an all-white or multi-colored pet."

The "Back in Black" pets that Friend of Animals Utah have for adoption can be seen at the Furburbia adoption center in the Tanger Outlets, at 6699 N. Landmark Dr. at Kimball Junction, Mondays through Saturdays from noon until 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

"If you go online at our website at foautah.org, you can see every animal that we have available for adoption," Allison said.

Friends of Animals Utah is hosting a "Back in Black" pet adoption program throughout November. Black or mostly-black cats, dogs, puppies and kittens can be adopted for $60. For more information, visit foautah.org,.