black dog syndrome
n. In an animal shelter, the tendency for black- or dark-coated dogs to be passed over for adoption in favor of lighter colored dogs.

Example Citations:
The Humane Educational Society will do its part to fight "black dog syndrome" with an adopt-athon this weekend at PetSmart, 2130 Gunbarrel Road. According to HES officials, big, black dogs often are the last to be adopted from animal shelters, a phenomenon known as black dog syndrome.
—"Black dogs at adopt-athon," Chattanooga Times Free Press, November 13, 2009

For many dogs awaiting adoption, the speed with which they find a home may rest not on their breed, gender or age but on one trait that has no bearing on their personality or temperament. Shelter officials have dubbed it black dog syndrome — the propensity of dark-coated animals to be passed over for adoption in favor of their lighter counterparts.
—Craig Nakano, "Black dog bias?," Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2008

Earliest Citation:
The Metro East Humane Society isn't the only pet-adoption agency that's slow to find homes for black pets. It's a nationwide problem discussed on many Internet sites. The Michigan-based Animal Placement Bureau uses the term "black-dog syndrome," describing the phenomenon from a black dog's point of view.
—Teri Maddox, "Commonness, superstitions hinder adoption of dogs, cats," Belleville News-Democrat, March 26, 2006

Notes:
A more-to-the-point variation on this phrase is big black dog syndrome, which dates to early 2007:

Brody has been at Mower County's Humane Society in Austin for almost a full year now, while every week he watches families come in and leave with other lucky, happy dogs who get to go to their new homes. "Brody suffers from Big Black Dog Syndrome," said volunteer Barbara Finley-Shea. "He is really a great dog, but a lot of times bigger, darker dogs have a harder time finding a home."
—Karen Colbenson, "Good dogs often finish last," Post-Bulletin, January 25, 2007

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