updated 6/12/2008 2:32:44 PM ET 2008-06-12T18:32:44

An animal shelter pulled the plug on a program promoting the adoption of black cats and dogs after criticism that the event would have taken place the same week as a holiday commemorating freedom for enslaved blacks.

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The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter planned to reduce adoption fees from June 14-20 for black-coated animals through a "Black is Beautiful" promotion.

Eleven of 17 dogs and 12 of 24 cats at the shelter have black coats, shelter director Cheryl Schneider said. "It's just a known fact that black cats and black dogs are difficult to adopt ," she said.

People choose other animals over the black cats and dogs for a variety of reasons, including superstition, fears of aggression and complaints that people can't see the animals' facial expressions as well, Schneider said.

"I think it is very unfair to the dogs and cats that are here," she said.

Williamson County spokeswoman Connie Watson told the Austin American-Statesman the shelter has offered promotions before and this one was not meant to be a Juneteenth-related event.

Celebrated June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the 1867 arrival of Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston with news of freedom for Texas blacks. The announcement came nearly 2 1/2 years after passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the newspaper the promotion was "not very well planned or considered."

"In society, we live in small worlds, don't talk to people, assume things and promote things that have no basis in reality," Linder said. "I would encourage them to do more outreach on those animals. Talk to people, get some feedback so these things don't happen."

Schneider put a stop to the adoption program after learning about the controversy. "It was just bad timing," she said.

She said future promotions will not be so specific.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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