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Pit bulls, black cats and black dogs hardest to place for adoption
Hall shelter, Humane Society also try to screen owners
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Camilla Langley, 4, plays with a cat Saturday at the Hall County Animal Shelter in Gainesville. Langley visited the shelter with her siblings, who were there to get community service hours for Junior Beta Club by giving the animals attention and letting them exercise out of their cages. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Unfortunately, not every creature that enters an animal shelter will come out.

Pit bulls, pit bull mixes, black cats and black dogs are the most unlikely animals to be adopted from local shelters, according to those who run them.

While stigma and negative perceptions may make pit bulls or pit bull mixes an undesirable adoption choice, overbreeding may also play a factor.

“If you get a pit bull mix and end up with 15 puppies, they’re going to end up here,” said Mike Ledford, director of the Hall County Animal Shelter. “They’re a great breed of dog, they really are, some of the friendliest dogs we have here. There’s just so many of them.”

At the end of January, there were 243 animals in the Hall County Animal Shelter, a low number due in part to the cold temperatures that prevent animals from breeding. On any day in late summer, the shelter will have around 400 animals ready for adoption.

Small dogs tend to get adopted more quickly than larger animals, which may not appeal as much to families with small children.

“Overall the smaller breed dogs are going to stay small,” Ledford said. “They tend to go out the front door a lot faster.”

Julie Edwards, director of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, says senior pets and animals with darker coloring tend to face a much more difficult adoption process.

“A lot of times senior animals come with health issues, hip issues, joint issues, and it can be a burden for people to take that on,” Edwards said. “It takes a special person to adopt a senior pet.”

Black dogs and black cats also may face an uphill battle when it comes to getting out of a shelter. A variety of theories exists to explain what some in the animal care world have coined Black Dog Syndrome, such as potential pet owners’ subconscious belief that black cats are unlucky or that black dogs in literature are often associated with misfortune.

“A more practical reason is black animals are more difficult to photograph, especially in a shelter setting,” Edwards said. “In the photos you take to promote the animal, a lot of times they’ll just show up as a black blob with glowing eyes.”

More than 2,400 animals were adopted from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia last year. But at any shelter, the focus is on keeping them that way.

Animals are returned to the shelters from which they were adopted every year for a variety of reasons.

“The problem is people will adopt a puppy and not realize it won’t stay a puppy forever,” Ledford said. “It gets to be bigger than what they wanted to have, and unfortunately sometimes we end up with it again.”

The Hall County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia do as much as they can to educate people beforehand about the responsibilities and realities of pet ownership before they ever sign the adoption paperwork.

Education is especially important when it comes to adopting out larger dogs.

“We try to educate the folks coming to adopt here and let them know this dog is going to be 60 pounds or 80 pounds, and have them make an informed decision before they leave,” Ledford said. “If they live in an apartment, it’s probably not something they want to deal with.”

At the Humane Society, adoption counselors also encourage individuals to bring in their other pets or small children to interact with the animal and make sure they’re compatible.

Adoption personnel are also allowed to turn down a candidate for adoption if they don’t feel they’re a good fit for the animal.

“We try to screen people as much as possible on the front end,” Edwards said. “That seems to have helped decrease our return rate quite a bit.”

Volunteers and donors are integral in helping animals get adopted. As part of the Humane Society’s Adoption Angels program, individuals can also help cover an animal’s fees to make it more attractive to potential forever homes.

The Hall County Animal Shelter’s first outdoor adoption event of the year will be March 28, when Mutts on Main comes to downtown Gainesville.

“Luckily in the 5« years we’ve been here, our numbers are steadily going up for adoptions,” Ledford said. “We’re hoping that’s a trend that continues.”

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