Photographer Fred Levy may have found his most photogenic subjects yet.
The 44-year-old from Maynard, Mass., recently launched the Black Dogs Project, a photo series that photographs black dogs against a dark background. The initiative tells the story of the difficulties these dogs face when waiting to be adopted.
Although he hasn’t found any concrete statistics, after speaking to people who work in the pet industry and at animal shelters, Levy found out that black dogs are often treated differently than other dogs — and are often overlooked by people who come to shelters with the intention to adopt.
Crickett is one of the dogs Levy has photographed
The phenomenon is commonly referred to as “Black Dog Syndrome” or “Black Dog Bias,” a stereotype against dark-colored animals possibly ingrained in people through depictions in movies and books, according to experts.
“Sometimes black dogs are seen as scarier by people,” Hope Hancock, the executive director of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County in Raleigh, N.C., told ABC News. “It’s very, very unfair — you can get a bite from a little yellow Chihuahua faster than one of the bigger black dogs.”
There is some debate among experts about the validity of this so-called bias. In 2013, the ASPCA reported on a study that cast doubt on the phenomenon, and concluded that it may be a myth.
Still, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from shelter workers that black dogs are routinely ignored, and, as a result, more of them are euthanized due to a shortage of space at shelters, according to USA Today.
Levy decided to do his part to fight against that.
“I thought this project would be a good graphic challenge and everyone has a really great story to tell,” Levy told The Huffington Post. “I want to bring awareness to this issue and remind people who are searching for the perfect dog that black dogs have great personalities too.”
Now, let’s meet the pups:
Meet Bo. He’s a blind Lab mix who is still looking for his seeing eye owner. He came from a kill shelter down South, and has been staying with a woman who is fostering him for the time being.
“Since he’s constantly moving, everything is always new to him,” Levy told HuffPost. “He would run into the wall in the studio, get frustrated for a minute and then immediately get over it and go back to being himself. It’s adorable.”
Meet Denver. He’s a black Lab and therapy dog. His owner takes him to be with people who need that comfort only a dog can give. He spent time with a first responder for the Boston Marathon bombings, giving support to victims as they were dealing with the traumatic experience.
“He’s really good at it. When you’re in the room with him, he’s super happy to be around you,” Levy said. “He just wants to hang out with you.”
Meet Mercedes. She’s a sassy black poodle and therapy dog who spends time with patients in hospitals.
“She has most recently spent time comforting patients at Emerson Hospital,” Levy said.
Meet Faith. She used to be all black, but has grayed with age.
“I’m a sucker for senior dogs,” Levy said.
Meet Pawnee the German shepherd.
“You gotta love the floppy ear of a puppy German shepherd,” Levy wrote on his Facebook page.
Meet Shadow the Portuguese water dog.
“I love this photo because he looks like a muppet,” Levy said.
“Through doing this project, I’ve found that it’s really important to share the idea that there are always so many dogs in need of a good safe home, regardless of what the dog looks like,” Levy told HuffPost. “Maybe someone will see this and consider the gravity of owning a pet, no matter what color it is.”