— FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Some animal shelters in Alabama said they aren't offering black cats for adoption this week, despite a growing view among protection groups that the threat of abuse during Halloween is an urban legend.
Colbert County animal control director Tommy Morson said concerns over the welfare of such animals this time of year are called "black-cat syndrome."
Personally, Morson said he has never seen cases of cat abuse tied to Halloween, and animal welfare workers say such stories may be rooted more in myth than reality.
"But we do not adopt black cats the week of Halloween, just because of the hype over the black-cat syndrome," he told the TimesDaily of Florence (http://bit.ly/VwW84A ). The temporary adoption ban is "unwritten policy," he said.
Florence animal control officer Delbert Rhodes said workers at the city shelter sometimes keep black cats in the back of the facility, away from public view, during this time of year.
"We want to make sure these cats go to good homes," Rhodes said.
He said they currently have one black cat up for adoption, "but we would be very careful about who we would adopt it out to this time of year."
Other shelters said they used to prohibit people from adopting black cats around Halloween but changed the policy partly because it was unclear whether stories of ritual sacrifices were true.
In Shelby County, located in suburban Birmingham, the county humane shelter dropped its long-standing policy against adoptions of black cats around Halloween a few years ago, executive director Sara Shirley said Monday.
"When I first got involved in animal welfare that was the standard practice, that you don't adopt out any solid black cats around Halloween," said Shirley, who has been involved in animal welfare work for nine years. "Now, we adopt if someone is looking for any color cat as long as they fit the adoption criteria."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in a statement released last week, said that stories about witches adopting black cats for rituals are untrue. Black cats are less likely to be adopted that other felines in U.S. shelters, it said.
Kirsten Theisen, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said the organization doesn't know of any cases of black cats being adopted and purposely harmed during the Halloween season, but temporary moratoriums could hurt the animals by making it less likely they will ever find a home.
"It's mostly an urban legend that cats are endangered like that because of Halloween," she said.
Shirley said it doesn't make sense that someone would pay a shelter adoption fee to adopt a black cat if they intended to hurt the animal.
"There are too many other places to get a cat if they wanted to do something like that," she said.