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Black cats should take Halloween in stride

Each year, Halloween puts black cats in the spotlight. Whether because of the superstition that black cats are bad luck, or something else, the belief persists that black cats are in danger during Halloween season as targets of abuse and violence.

Nationwide, some shelters put adoptions of black cats on hold near Halloween because they fear adopting to individuals with cruel intentions. But some animal welfare experts say the whole thing is an urban legend, right up there with phantom clowns.

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"At Good Mews we don’t subscribe to that. We believe it is more of an urban legend. A lot of people kind of equate black cats with Halloween and scariness and superstition and things like that and that has kind of just perpetuated this myth," said Lisa Johns, shelter manager at Good Mews in Marietta.

Most shelters have a stringent screening process which includes an application and interview that should deter anyone seeking to adopt an animal for harm. However, some animal experts say the concerns cannot be entirely ignored.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says black cats should be kept indoors during October (and all year) . "Black cats are often associated with dark forces and are an easy target for Halloween pranksters who commit violent acts against unsuspecting kitties," says PETA.

"It is very real and it is very unfortunate. I detest the Halloween holiday because of the cruelty that is done to animals. The day after we get calls from animal control that are picking up injured and abused cats," said Samantha Shelton, founder and executive director of Furkids Animal Rescue & Shelters.

But other than anecdotal information, there is no widespread evidence that adopting black cats during Halloween season is any riskier than adopting them out at any other time of year. There also haven't been many documented cases of crimes against black cats around Halloween.

What has been documented is a different form of abuse -- the people who adopt black cats to use as props for Halloween parties or costumes, then either return them to shelters the next day or simply abandon them.

This year, at least one metro area county is paying close attention to anyone who comes in to adopt a black cat.

"The Clayton County Animal Control facility has decided that special attention will be given to those seeking to adopt black cats around the Halloween season to ensure that the animals are not being sought solely to accessorize Halloween activities.  We want to ensure the animals will not end up discarded and homeless after Halloween by doing everything that we can to confirm that the individuals adopting the animals have every intent to keep and care for them," said Sgt. Ashanti Marbury.

Shelters that decide to completely shut down the adoption of black cats for an entire month, a few weeks or even a few days can create an unintended problem. Black cats are generally the largest populations in shelters and if they remain for too long, they run the risk of being euthanized.

"It is a well-known fact in the animal welfare field that black cats are often overlooked because people opt for a more colorful cat," said Johns. "If we have the opportunity to promote a black cat then we want to take it." The trend in the animal welfare world, she said, is moving towards taking advantage of Halloween to put black cats on display rather than hiding them away.

Pet owners who are worried about their black cats during Halloween should do what animal welfare experts advise for all cats at all times -- keep them inside and they will be safe from more than just Halloween pranksters.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.