BOISE, Idaho – No black cat will cross your path this Halloween, not if a northern Idaho animal shelter can help it.
Like many shelters around the country, the Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d'Alene is prohibiting black cat adoptions from now to Nov. 2, fearing the animals could be mistreated in Halloween pranks — or worse, sacrificed in some satanic ritual.
The risk may be remote, said the shelter's executive director, Phil Morgan.
"It's kind of an urban legend. But in the humane industry it's pretty typical that shelters don't do adoptions of black cats or white bunnies because of the whole satanic sacrificial thing," Morgan said. "If we prevent one animal from getting hurt, then it serves its purpose."
Out of 97 cats at the shelter, 28 are black, Morgan said.
However, some animal experts say the practice does more to hurt animals than protect them.
"Black cats already suffer a stigma because of their color," said Gail Buchwald, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in New York City. "Why penalize them any more by limiting the times when they can be adopted?"
Black cats tend to be adopted less often than other felines, Buchwald said.
"Behaviorally, there's no difference from the color of the cat. It's tied into this whole mythology about the animal — don't let it cross your path or some foreboding or foreshadowing of evil — and that's an outdated superstition," she said.
It's not clear how many shelters still seasonally ban black cat adoptions, said Kim Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for the Humane Society of the United States, but the trend seems to be fading — along with the once-common bans on bunny adoptions around Easter or puppy adoptions as Christmas gifts.
"If there were people out there performing rituals with animals, then I would think that Halloween would be a time for that, but a good adoption process would tend to weed that out," Intino said. "There's going to be incidents of weird abuse that happen no matter what. The remedy is not banning black cat adoptions."