For those of you who have never worked in the animal welfare business, the term “black dog syndrome” or “black cat syndrome” may not be familiar. For the rest of us, we know it well. It’s a term that refers to the lower adoption rate of black- or dark-coated animals at shelters. There’s not a lot of hard data regarding the black dog and cat syndrome, but anecdotal evidence suggests this phenomenon is unfortunately real.

People seem to pass up black dogs and instead go for ones with light coats. Some shelter employees speculate that black dogs just don’t have the right look to catch the eye of the public. Others hypothesize that black dogs are hard to see in shelters. The darker the dog, the harder it is to see their eyes and people need to connect with a dog through its eyes. The more black dogs waiting in cages at animal shelters, the more the problem is perpetuated. If a potential adopter sees rows and rows of black dogs, they might think there’s something wrong with these dogs.

Black cats are not immune to this syndrome. Just as we see happening with black dogs, black cats don’t catch the eye as much as an orange tabby cat might. A longtime volunteer at Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) in Santa Barbara told me that when someone comes into the shelter looking for a kitten to adopt she asks about any preferences as to color, gender, etcetera, and often they think a bit and respond: “Not black.”

It is because of this unfortunate syndrome that ASAP is going to be holding a special promotion for black and black/white cats on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28. The adoption fee for all black and black/white cats will be only $35. As a special feature of this promotion, ASAP will stay open until 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27. Approximately one third of the current cat population at ASAP is black or black/white cats, so hopefully this promotion will generate some interest in these special felines.

One unique black cat at ASAP named Jimmy is in need of a special home. Jimmy is a 6-year-old neutered male who had a rough start to his life, living almost entirely outdoors. Now he’s at ASAP looking for a permanent home, and unfortunately, there are a couple of snags — he has never been in a cage and is completely unhappy and not himself at the shelter. The other snag is that his blood test showed that he has feline AIDs (FIV), which means that he has to be adopted to an “indoor”-only home. Being FIV positive means that he has the feline AIDS virus, which is similar to the human AIDS virus, but it can’t be transmitted to humans, only other cats. That’s why he has to be adopted by someone who will promise to keep him indoors because if he got in a fight with another cat and bit or scratched and exchange blood, he could infect the other cat. However, he is not a fighter, but definitely a lover. He purrs and gives gentle “head butts” when he is happy with a special ASAP volunteer named Lisa. He is healthy, and as long as he is taken care of, he can live a long and happy life. To see a video of Jimmy in action with Lisa, click here.

Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization that takes care of the cats and kittens at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter. ASAP provides humane care for these animals and works to eliminate the practice of euthanizing them for reasons other than serious health or behavior problems. ASAP currently has a few special-needs kitties that are looking for loving homes. For more information, visit ASAP at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. Adoption hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call (805) 683-3368 or visit

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Destry is a darling little boy with a sweet, loving temperament. He loves people and wants to be in on the family activities and, of course, all the petting possible! Don’t come see him unless you’re ready to fall in love! Every rabbit sheltered at BUNS is spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS) is a volunteer organization that cares for abandoned rabbits. BUNS is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. BUNS works to find bunnies permanent homes and educates the public on caring for a companion rabbit. You can call the County Shelter at (805) 681-5285 or call BUNS at (805) 683-0521 and leave a message for someone to call you back. For more information, visit


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