Pet Parade: Black cat, white dog syndrome

By AL SWANSON, United Press International  |  Nov. 6, 2011 at 5:00 AM
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I haven't seen the black cat that had been roaming the neighborhood before Halloween. I hope nothing happened to it.

The young cat, which resembled a diminutive black panther with a sleek, shiny coat, and I crossed paths a couple of times as I walked my two terriers. Just a few days before Halloween, it exhibited the classic horror movie frightened cat behavior, arching its back and hissing at my dogs.

I remember thinking this cat is going to have a hard time on Halloween.

Myths say it's bad luck to own a black cat or have one cross one's path. However, sailors in the days of iron men and wooden ships considered black cats good luck, believing the sea would punish them if one got tossed overboard.

During the witch hunts of the Middle Ages and the U.S. colonial-era, the superstitious said black cats were instruments of the devil even though they helped control populations of disease-carrying, flea-infested mice and rats.

Many animal shelters will not permit a black cat to be adopted around Halloween because of fears of what might happen to it. The same doesn't apply to black dogs.

Healthy black dogs can often languish in shelters -- and many end up being put to sleep -- all because of the color of their fur.

"Black dogs have a very difficult time getting adopted, and are euthanized at a staggering rate at many animal control facilities throughout the country, the Glendale (Calif.) Humane Society told ABC News. "The sad truth is they are overlooked in favor of lighter-colored dogs."

My vet says many dog owners choose not to neuter light-colored dogs thinking they will one day breed them. He calls it "White Dog Syndrome."

The evidence is anecdotal, but animal adoption activists say there is support for the idea.

"There may be a stereotyped perception of black animals being equated with bad or evil -- examples are black cats depicted as bad luck or black dogs as a bad omen in films -- to a simple matter of being harder to see in a shelter run [or] cage," Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach and public relations for, told ABC.

Katherine Hearn, a board member of Animal Aid in Portland, Ore., a non-profit shelter, told The Oregonian some black cats remain in the shelter for as long as six years.

More and more shelters are grooming and dressing animals in colorful customs, and using professional photographers, in an effort to make them seem cuter and, therefore, more appealing for potential adoption.


Ohio preparing to ban owning exotic animals

A government and animal interest group task force has backed calls by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium director Jack Hanna to prohibit people from keeping exotic animals as pets.

Impetus for a new law comes weeks after law enforcement officers shot and killed 48 wild animals that had been deliberately released from a private reserve in Muskingun County near Zanesvile Oct. 18. The animals' owner, Terry Thompson, committed suicide.

"No more lions and tigers and bears as pets," Hanna told The Columbus Dispatch after meeting with the committee that proposed a statewide ban last Monday on ownership of exotic animals from big cats to monkeys.

A source told the newspaper the proposed law -- which would be one of the toughest in the United States -- would outlaw all new private ownership of big cats, bears, wolves, primates and venomous snakes. People already owning exotic animals would be grandfathered and able to keep them.

An Ohio animal rescue officer estimates there are at least 20 private owners of exotic animals in the state, and probably more, the Dispatch said.

In January, Kasich allowed to expire an executive order signed by former Gov. Ted Strickland that would have prohibited anyone convicted of abuse or neglect of an animal from owning exotic animals.

Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005, the newspaper said.

Kasich signed his own executive order Oct. 21 restricting auctions of wild animals.


Beware of the kibble.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week warned it is "particularly concerned about salmonella being transmitted to humans through pet foods, pet treats, and supplements for pets that are intended to be fed to animals in homes where they are likely to be directly handled or ingested by humans."

The FDA began testing pet foods in October from distributors, wholesalers and retailers, including the nation's largest pet store and discount chains, the Wall Street Journal said. U.S. pets consume more than $14 billion in food, treats and supplements annually.

In addition to dog and cat food, the watchdog agency is testing feed for rabbits, reptiles, birds, aquarium fish and hamsters, mice and guinea pigs. Researchers say it's possible for humans to contract salmonella just by putting objects or fingers contaminated with the bacteria to your mouth.

Pet owners are advised to wash their hands thoroughly after feeding pets and to keep infants away from pet bowls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed 70 cases of illness from salmonella-tainted pet food from a Pennsylvania plant from January 2006 through December 2007.

When possible, pet owners should store dry pet food in the original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a tight lid. Wet pet food should be refrigerated at 40 F and discarded if spoilage is suspected.

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