WICHITA, Kan. — Madison Bell wants to give black dogs a better shot.
The 12-year-old Wichita, Kan., girl, a seventh-grader at Mayberry Middle School, recently launched the Black Dog Club, an effort to raise awareness about a bias against black animals that often keeps them in shelters longer than their lighter-colored counterparts.
"Black dogs are overlooked because they're not unique enough. You can't see their faces very well," said Madison, who volunteers at the Kansas Humane Society.
"When I learned about it, I was shocked. I wanted to do something to help."
Madison has helped the Humane Society host the Black Dog Adoption Drive, an event geared toward getting more black animals out of shelters and into loving homes. The Humane Society waived adoption fees for all black animals.
Madison encourages visitors to join the Black Dog Club, which she launched as her Girl Scout Silver Award project.
Madison's effort has "really kind of taken off," said Jennifer Campbell, spokeswoman for the Kansas Humane Society. "People understand the club and are quite charmed by Madison and her dedication to what we do."
Campbell said a bias against black dogs, sometimes called Black Dog Syndrome, is noticeable at the Wichita shelter — and elsewhere. Black dogs' facial expressions are harder to see and to photograph, so "they don't grab your eye as quickly as brighter-colored animals," she said.
Most telling, she said, is how patrons seeing a litter of puppies often opt for the lighter-colored ones.
Since launching her club, Madison has raised about $1,300 for the Kansas Humane Society — funds that help pay for veterinary services and other needs for shelter animals.
"Really," she said, "I just hope we save a whole lot of animals' lives."