Many college students spend their summer vacations relaxing, sleeping in, and hanging out with friends. But Maggie Epling, a photography student at the University of Kentucky, isn’t your average college student.
As summer vacation neared, the budding photography student decided to use her new skills to help black shelter pets get adopted. “I thought about volunteering, and I’ve always loved animals and photography,” Epling told NPR.
After reading stories about how good photos make all the difference when it comes to adoption, Epling reached out to the Pike County Animal Shelter in Pike, Kentucky, to see if they needed a pro bono pet portrait photographer.
“So I just called the shelter and asked if I could come in and they seemed really grateful and appreciative,” said Epling, whose portraits focus on black shelter cats and dogs, which spend longer in shelters waiting to get adopted.
This phenomenon, known as the Black Cat- or Black Dog Syndrome, sadly leaves shelter pets with black fur at higher risk of euthanasia.
Epling has only been photographing black shelter pets for a couple of weeks, but the rural Kentucky shelter has already noticed a growing interest in shelter pets who’ve sat for her portraits.
“They say they can’t believe how many calls they’re getting,” said Epling, who also takes the time to get to know her furry subjects beforehand, which helps their personalities shine through.
Subjects include black shelter dogs like Blinky, a one-eyed pitbull mix and the shelter’s longest resident; Jersey, a calm and well-mannered mutt, and Tiny, a playful dog with one brown and one blue eye. After languishing in the shelter, all three shelter pets have enjoyed greater buzz after starring in Epling’s photos.
One dog, a beagle named Winona, has already been adopted! Winona’s new family even mentioned the dog’s compelling portrait when they came to pick her up. “We want to adopt this dog because we saw the photo on Facebook,” the photography student fondly remembered Winona’s new family saying.
“And when I came in today people at the shelter told me that I had no idea how many people had come in and bragged about my photos and talked about how the photos made them want to come to the shelter,” the young student said proudly.
Check out Maggie Epling’s work by visiting the Pike County Animal Shelter’s Facebook page.
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