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Artist Takes Stunning Photos of Black Cats and Dogs As They're Often 'First To Be Euthanized'

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Many factors go into choosing a pet: Size, friendliness and breed are just a few of the features that influence our decision.

Most of the time, we don’t consciously think about the importance of fur color, of all things.

According to the ASPCA, more black dogs and cats enter animal shelters than pets of any other color. An overflow of black animals might mean that they are first to be euthanized, even if they are adopted at a steady rate.

Some organizations say the stats don’t actually support “black dog syndrome,” and others say the phenomenon is alive and well, at least in their particular neck of the woods.

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“It’s not news to people who have been in animal welfare for a while that black cats and dogs are a little harder to place,” Brenda Barnette of Los Angeles Animal Services told Today. “I think it’s for the very simple reason that they’re harder to photograph.”

In today’s social media-driven world, many pet owners turn to platforms like Instagram to share photos of their furry friends.

If an animal doesn’t seem to photograph well or risks appearing aggressive, aloof or plain, potential pet owners might opt instead for a different fur pattern. The superstition that surrounds black cats certainly doesn’t help matters.

Emma O’Brien, a 38-year-old photographer from South Africa, was devastated when she discovered “black dog syndrome.”

“Ending up at a shelter is bad news for any animal,” O’Brien wrote on Bored Panda. “But black critters are the least likely to be adopted and if they are lucky enough to be chosen by an adoptee, they will have waited the longest.”

O’Brien, who specializes in portrait photography, uses her camera to prove that there is much more to animals than their fur color. Her “Black Rescue Series” features black-and-white portraits of black cats and dogs. Her Facebook page has earned over 14,000 followers.

“I believe that by showing the individuality of shelter animals and changing perceptions around them will go a long way to breaking down misconceptions about rescue pets and encourage more people to adopt,” O’Brien told Caters News.

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O’Brien chooses to caption her photos with a touch of humor. The added captions highlight how she perceives the animals’ personalities. A snapshot of one cat reads, “Gabriel. Insisted on just a headshot because he’s still working on his bikini body.”

“I chose to take a lighthearted approach with the captions so that people looking at the images would find them happy and fun rather than depressing — we have enough negativity in our news feeds,” O’Brien said.

All of the animals O’Brien photographs have found loving homes after a period of waiting.

“Thankfully the dog and cat moms and dads who brought their precious rescues to the studio for photos selected their creatures based on their super personalities,” the photographer wrote on Bored Panda.

O’Brien hopes that her photo series will help to combat the stereotypes that surround black animals and convince others to adopt from shelters.

“There are a whole bunch of misconceptions about shelter dogs and cats. Sometimes they can be difficult, sometimes they take a while to settle, sometimes they require extra TLC and a behaviorist, but mostly they don’t,” O’Brien wrote. “All shelter pet parents will tell you that the love you get in return is 110% worth it.”

Whether or not “black dog syndrome” actually exists, O’Brien is doing lovely work and supporting pet adoption — both great things.

More photos of O’Brien’s animal friends can be viewed and supported on Facebook, Instagram and

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Noel Marquis is a journalist and animal-lover hailing from the Midwest. After an internship with Disney following her college graduation, she pursued a career writing content that makes readers smile. Coffee, books and superhero movies are some of her favorite things.