California has been up to their elbows in Chihuahuas! All over California, Chihuahuas have been abandoned at shelters at an alarming rate. In the last 12 months, animal shelters in the city of Los Angeles have taken in 4,700 Chihuahuas, 1,000 more than the 12 months before that. That’s a lot of little dogs.
And who is to blame for this? Pop culture, of course. The popularity of movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde; and celebutard Paris Hilton has infected the minds of thousands of teen and pre-teen wannabes. Not to mention their parents as well. The pet of choice became the Chihuahua. And as with any impulse buy to placate “our little princess”, nobody cared to read the fine print.
Backyard breeders began over breeding these little dogs thinking they could make a killing on the popularity of the breed. They sure did…selling them to pet shops. The little dogs are no different than other dogs bred by uncaring and unscrupulous breeders. They can be plagued with health problems that require expensive veterinary care. And when not trained properly, they can become protective and aggressive. The recession, foreclosures, and unprepared owners who lacked patience and funds caused the abandonment of thousands of these little dogs. Shelters found that Chihuahuas now make up 30 percent of their population.
The problem has become so bad for the West Coast that shelters are now shipping the dogs East where there is a demand for them.
So today is officially Operation Chihuahua. Virgin America Airline is assisting the City of San Francisco Animal Care and Control by flying Chihuahua pups from San Francisco to New York so they can be adopted into loving homes in time for the holidays. The San Francisco Animal Care & Control asked Virgin America to spare a seat during the busy holiday travel season to help fly these needy dogs. Several Virgin America teammates have volunteered to escort the pups on the flights to the East Coast.
Not only that, but the pups are going to be sent off celebrity style. Complete with a red carpet at the gate, doggie treats and plenty of toys to play with until departure. The Chihuahuas will be received at JFK International Airport by the ASPCA who will place the little dogs up for adoption.
This is not the first flight out for the pups. A group of 25 dogs has already arrived at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua in New Hampshire, thanks to “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Katherine Heigl, Kinder4Rescue in Studio City, and American Airlines.
Another group of 43 is due for New Hampshire from Los Angeles Animal Services dubbed “Project Flying Chihuahua”. They were supposed to leave Saturday morning, but bad weather in the east caused a delay.
It’s not unheard of to transport animals interstate to help overloaded shelters, but lets hope that these little animals are adopted into homes that recognize the responsibility. There is nothing more tragic than seeing this vast rescue effort turn into a vicious cycle – where the demands of a new pet force their new owners to abandon these little dogs again. And seeing that it’s Christmas, I hope these pups aren’t going as unsolicited gifts. It’s a noble effort, but I’m going wait and see how things are in the next six months.
I can only offer this little bit of advice between now and the end of the year. Check your mailboxes carefully.