Out of the Shadows is a local program founded by Nebraska Humane Society. Its number one goal is to raise awareness about the hundreds of black animals that will never be adopted from animal shelters. “Black Dog Syndrome” is a phenomenon in which potential adopters pass over black animals in favor of animals with lighter and more colorful fur.
The three-year-old program was founded at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Service Learning Academy. That’s where Nebraska Humane Society’s Director of Education, Kerry Ecklebe, and Field Club Elementary teacher, Kristine Bielenberg, met and created the program to raise awareness about what Ecklebe says is a chronic and widespread issue that shelters all around the world deal with.
Out of the Shadows is dedicated to resolving this longstanding issue through awareness and volunteer involvement within the Omaha community. Its mission is to break the stigma surrounding black animals.
Ecklebe said one of the reasons black dogs in particular have such a difficult time getting adopted is because they are often associated with fear and aggression. The media reinforces this portrayal of black animals by using black dogs as a way to depict danger.
Ecklebe believes the Out of the Shadows program has succeeded in elevating public awareness of the issue. She encourages students at UNO to help out with the cause. According to Ecklebe, the easiest way UNO students can help is by simply encouraging people to adopt from shelters.
“Knowledge is so powerful, encouraging others to adopt saves an animal’s life as opposed to breeding or buying,” Ecklebe said.
She said that anyone who promotes adoption saves the lives of animals that otherwise would never have gotten the opportunity to live a long and happy life.
Ecklebe says UNO students can also make a huge impact by volunteering their time at events sponsored by the program, or at the shelter walking dogs or socializing with cats. Students can also donate toys, blankets, food or simply make a cash donation.
The Nebraska Humane Society takes in more than 30,000 animals each year.
“By promoting and encouraging people to go to a shelter, you can save not only that one animal that gets adopted because of you,” Ecklebe said. “You can also save the next one in line who was waiting in the back kennels for its turn to have a spot in the front to meet new potential families.”