Animal shelter halts "Black is Beautiful" promotion

June 12, 2008 5:52:30 AM PDT
An animal shelter pulled the plug on a program promoting the adoption of black cats and dogs after criticism that the event would have taken place the same week as Juneteenth, a state holiday commemorating freedom for enslaved blacks in Texas. The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter planned to reduce adoption fees June 14-20 for black-coated animals to $25 through a "Black is Beautiful" promotion, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its online edition Wednesday.

The shelter had pictures of a black cat named "Midnight" and two black dogs named "Britain" and "Baskin" on its Web site Wednesday.

Eleven of 17 dogs and 12 of 24 cats at the shelter have black coats, shelter director Cheryl Schneider told The Associated Press.

People choose other animals over the black coated cats and dogs for a variety of reasons, including superstition, fears of aggression and complaints people can't see the animals' facial expressions as well, Schneider said.

Celebrated June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the 1867 arrival of Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston with news of freedom for Texas blacks. The announcement came nearly two and a half years after passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Schneider put a stop to the adoption program after learning about the controversy. "It was just bad timing," Schneider told the AP.

"It's just a known fact that black cats and black dogs are difficult to adopt," Schneider said. "I think it is very unfair to the dogs and cats that are here."

Williamson County spokeswoman Connie Watson told the paper the shelter has offered promotions before when it has had a high number of a type of animal, including a promotion for cat adoptions later this month. The promotion was not meant to be a Juneteenth-related event, Watson told the paper.

Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the paper the promotion was "not very well planned or considered."

"In society, we live in small worlds, don't talk to people, assume things and promote things that have no basis in reality," Linder told the paper. "I would encourage them to do more outreach on those animals. Talk to people, get some feedback so these things don't happen."

Schneider said future promotions will not be so specific.

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