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Minnesota animal shelter's 'Black Friday' sale aims to offset dark-furred pet prejudice

Talk about discrimination. Thousands of animals are killed each year in Minnesota for one reason -- the color of their fur. Because of changing tastes of pet owners, black dogs and cats often go unadopted in shelters and are ultimately euthanized...

Talk about discrimination.

Thousands of animals are killed each year in Minnesota for one reason -- the color of their fur. Because of changing tastes of pet owners, black dogs and cats often go unadopted in shelters and are ultimately euthanized.

That's why an animal shelter in Hastings had a "Black Friday" sale Friday. The Animal Ark No-Kill Shelter cut adoption fees in half for any black dog or cat, hoping to clear out its backlog of black animals.

"People tend to want an animal that is more flashy and beautiful," said shelter manager Mallory Eiynck, as she played with a friendly black Labrador that has been in the shelter for four months.

"Black is attractive to lots of us, but other people see black animals as plain. You see them everywhere."

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Reliable statistics are elusive, but Eiynck said she believes that about half of the 20,000 animals euthanized annually in the Twin Cities are black.

Across the country, about 4 million animals are euthanized in shelters annually, according to the Humane Society of the United States. And a growing number of those killed reportedly have dark fur.

"No one wants them," said Laura Johnson, a volunteer with Scram, a St. Paul feline rescue group.

She said she has noticed a sharp increase in the number of abandoned black cats.

"It's for whatever stupid reasons people get in their heads," Johnson said. "It has to do with witchcraft and Halloween."

Cats have a long-standing association with bad luck and

evil spirits, but black dogs are increasingly left behind, too, shelter workers said.

Eiynck said black dogs are perceived as too ordinary. "People think that if you have seen one black dog, you have seen them all," she said.

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Black dogs -- particularly large black dogs -- fill animal shelters. Labradors are especially common, Eiynck said. "Every time you go down the street, you see one."

Hollywood may play a role in fostering prejudice against black animals. As a rule, the most menacing dogs on screen are large and black, and the friendly ones are small and lighter-colored.

Technology is also to blame. Shelters use websites to advertise animals that need homes. Photos are often used -- and black animals don't look as appealing in photographs.

"The photos look washed out and faded," Eiynck said.

Shelter director Mike Fry said most of the marketing for shelters is done through the Internet. But the photos of black animals, he said, "just look like black blobs."

But Fry said the same phenomenon can happen when people see black animals in shelters. "They walk through kennels that are not often beautifully lit," he said. "It's harder to see their eyes and their expressions."

It's more important, Eiynck said, for prospective pet owners to spend a little time with an animal than to pick one out online. "You can't pick them by their personalities on a website," she said.

Nick Anderson is an equal-opportunity cat lover. He and his wife came to the shelter Friday to take advantage of the Black Friday event.

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The cat of choice was a 6-month-old black kitten named Orlando. Anderson paid $38, which covered the cost of shots, neutering and an implanted microchip to identify the cat. The shelter even gave him a cat starter kit, complete with a Baggie of food.

"Black, orange, white -- color doesn't matter to us," said Anderson, of Columbia Heights, as he lifted the cat carrier into his car.

"I just don't want to see the black ones abandoned."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Related Topics: PETS
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