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Analyzing which dogs get adopted

Carah Gilmore holds a black dog. The girl did a science project to see if black dogs are really the last to be adopted.
Carah Gilmore holds a black dog. The girl did a science project to see if black dogs are really the last to be adopted. COURTESY OF RYAN GILMORE

Carah Gilmore is very dedicated to her cause.

For a science project last school year, Carah, 11, decided to find out if “black dog syndrome,” a theory that claims black dogs linger longer in pet adoption shelters than other dogs, exists.

“I had a science fair project due,” she said. “I wanted to help them (black dogs). I wanted to find out what factors matter in how dogs get adopted. I heard about black dog syndrome on the news, so I wanted to see if it was true.”

For help, Carah enlisted her father, Ryan Gilmore, a senior application developer at SAS. He is also an avid photographer, who has aided a pet adoption center by taking higher quality photos of the animals.

Carah contacted many organizations for data, but only two, Rescue Ur Forever Friend (RUFF) and Second Chance Pet Adoptions, complied. The adoption groups emailed data to her.

Carah, a sixth-grader at Mills Park Middle School, combined two years’ worth of data into an Excel file. Then she copied and imported it into a statistical software package called JMP, which her father had worked with at SAS. He helped her with the software so she could perform her analysis.

Her findings were not surprising.

“The color of the dog that was adopted the earliest was the gray dog, while the longest (wait) was the black dog,” Carah said.

On average, it took black dogs 83 days to be adopted while it took only 38 days for a gray dog. Brown dogs took 65 days.

She made other observations.

“The breed that was adopted the quickest was the shih tzu and the breed that took the longest was the poodle,” Carah said. “The gender that was adopted quickest was the female. The size dog adopted the quickest was extra-large, and the size that took the longest was large.”

That the extra-large dogs went faster than the large dogs and even the small and medium dogs was puzzling.

“They’re right next to each other on the scale. That was a big surprise,” Carah said.

Carah and her father sent the results to the organizations that were originally contacted for data. She only got two responses.

“They were very appreciative,” Carah said. “And they were taking it to their board of directors, and we told them if they needed any further info to contact us. We offered to do further analysis if they wanted it.”

While she doesn’t know whether there is another science fair project on the horizon, Carah knows what she wants to do next.

“I’d like to try to do one with cats, because when they gave us the information it was for cats and dogs,” Carah said. “So we had to filter out the cat information. I can go back and find the data and then filter out the dog info and do the cat (data).”

Carah gets her love of animals from her father, who has helped at RUFF for a year and a half.

“I actually have a strong passion for photography, Ryan Gilmore said. “I also do like dogs, but I once read an article that as a way to give back is to take good pictures of dogs and put them up on the (web) site to help them get adopted quicker.”

Carah likes to help her dad when he is photographing the animals, but her participation is limited.

“I am allergic to cats and dogs,” she laughed. “I can take medicine so I can go (to the shelters) when he goes.”

If anything, the project has given Carah a snapshot of a possible career path.

“I might want to get into statistics, but I don’t know,” Carah said. “I may go on an animal path.”