Girl Scout fights bias against black dogs

Black Friday may be about shopping and door-buster deals. For a 12-year-old Humane Society volunteer in Wichita, today will go to the dogs.

Madison Bell recently launched the Black Dog Club at her middle school in an effort to raise awareness about a bias against black animals that often keeps them in shelters longer than their lighter-colored counterparts.

“Black dogs are overlooked because they’re not unique enough. You can’t see their faces very well,” Madison said. “When I learned about it, I was shocked. I wanted to do something to help.”

So for nine hours today, Bell will help the Wichita society host the Black Dog Adoption Drive, where the organization will waive adoption fees for all black animals. Fees for other animals will be discounted 25 percent.

Pet adoption advocates say the bias is real. Sometimes called “Black Dog Syndrome,” the effect is noticeable at the Wichita shelter and elsewhere, where black animals often wait longer for homes because their facial expressions are harder to see and photograph.

Humane Society workers say the animals carry all sorts of false stigmas, among them the idea that black dogs are inherently mean or aggressive and that black cats represent bad luck.

“They don’t grab your eye as quickly as brighter-colored animals,” said Jennifer Campbell, spokeswoman for the Kansas Humane Society.

Madison has raised about $1,300 for the group. The money helps pay for veterinary services and other needs for shelter animals.