It’s something out of “The Night of the Pet Adoption Myth That Will Not Die.” Despite no evidence that Halloween pet adoption is dangerous or has bad outcomes, and despite the loud and clear recommendations of the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and other animal welfare experts to the contrary, some shelters, rescue groups, and animal advocates still insist adopting out cats and black pets at the end of October is about as smart as heading alone into the dark basement of a deserted mansion near where your car broke down one dark and stormy night.
If that describes you, before you go running for a stake and some garlic take a look at what these experts have to say:
- “The idea that shelters should suspend black cat adoptions around the holiday is widely considered a myth. Even Snopes.com (a website that investigates rumors and urban legends) aimed to set the record straight a decade ago when many shelters were citing the need to protect black cats—and possibly white cats and black dogs—from the dangers of satanic cults, youths inspired by horror flicks and folks who just needed a black cat to complete their Halloween costume masterpiece. The sheltering community has shifted from rigid standards to welcoming all potential adopters and using conversational interviews to counsel them about prospective new pets and screen out those with nefarious motives. Some shelters have swung to the other side of the pendulum, promoting black (and orange) cat adoptions in October. With so many black cats and black cat fans, why miss an opportunity for matchmaking?” – Animal Sheltering/HSUS
- “There is no evidence that adopting black cats around Halloween poses any greater risk to the pets than adopting them at any other time of the year. National Geographic did an article in 2007 titled ‘Ritual Cat Sacrifices a Halloween Myth, Experts Say.’ Experts on Halloween and cults have found ‘no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies to support the idea that serious satanic cult crime even exists.’ But myths die hard especially when they are perpetuated by well-meaning shelters or rescue groups who are themselves just acting on or passing along an unsubstantiated rumor. There is, however, plenty of evidence to show that not adopting cats of whatever color from shelters will cost them their lives.” – Best Friends
- “Quite a few shelters hide their black cats in the back the week before All Hallow’s Eve to protect them. There is no reason to believe that these cats are at risk. While it is true that animals too often become the victims of holiday pranks and cruelty, there is no reason to believe that witches are involved, or that shelters are a source. Normal adoption counseling procedures should be able to screen out those applicants with bad intent. Continued publicity on this tends to make adoption counseling procedures look arbitrary and silly.” – ASPCAPro
- “For the first seven years of her career, (Katherine Shenar, chief of staff at San Diego Humane Society) pulled black cats from the floor two weeks before Halloween and two weeks after, worried that people who adopted them at that time were doing so for nefarious purposes. But high intake numbers and the stress of cats living in close proximity inevitably led to illness and euthanasia for many of the very cats she was trying to save. ‘What we had done was protect the animals to death,’ Shenar says. ‘We had the very best of intentions but the very worst of outcomes. Animals died in the shelters because of rules and policies that were based on anecdotal experiences and no real scientific data.’” – Animal Sheltering/HSUS
Scary as it may be to change long-held beliefs, it does pets of any color no favors to protect them from a non-existent danger but subject them to longer shelter stays with their associated stress and illness, or to the loss of their lives or the lives of other pets who can’t be saved because the shelter closed down adoptions for a day, week, or longer.
Lots of animal organizations have successfully capitalized on people’s love of Halloween to get creative with holiday promotions, contests, fundraisers, and parades. Ready to get on board the Orange and Black Bandwagon? Here are a few ideas that might inspire you:
The Humane Society of Western Montana ran a “Pumpkin Spice” adoption promotion, while Alachua County Animal Services in Gainesville, Florida, went all-in with a “31 Days of Halloween” adoption promotion:
The Humane Society of Utah went with an orange and black theme for their Halloween adoption promotions:
San Diego Humane went Potter, but wants to make it clear they do adopt to muggles:
Shelters can also put the Halloween fun into fundraising, as the Humane Society of Tampa Bay did with their Pumpkin Patch:
Get more great ideas from ASPCAPro’s Guide to Halloween Shelter Celebrations and Animal Sheltering’s Never Mind the Myth.
And if you’ve already seen the light, share this with a colleague who hasn’t!