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Relocating Homeless Pets
California's unwanted Chihuahuas move east
One of the many Chihuahuas up for adoption by Kinder4Rescue.

Blame it on movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde, popular celebrities like Paris Hilton, commercials for Taco Bell, or on the economy, which has been increasing homeless pets across the board. 

Whatever the reason, California is seeing an overwhelming number of Chihuahuas filling their shelters.

In the past, the majority of unwanted dogs tended to be Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. Now many shelters in the Golden State are finding themselves filled with Chihuahuas, some reporting 30 percent or more. In the last year, Los Angeles shelters alone have taken in 4,700 Chihuahuas.

Northeast shelters, on the other hand, continue to be dominated by larger dogs, mostly Pit Bulls in my area. Small dogs are usually adopted quickly. 

Now actress Katherine Heigl, Kinder4Rescue, Los Angeles  Animal Services, American Airlines and Virgin America are teaming up to help pups otherwise slated for euthanasia to relocate to states where the Chihuahua ratio is in their favor.

Through Project Flying Chihuahua, 25 dogs have already arrived at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua in New Hampshire, funded by Katherine Heigl’s animal welfare foundation and American Airlines. These pups already have homes lined up with a waiting list of 100 people.  Forty three more Chihuahuas will leave this coming week, just in time for the holidays.

Virgin America is also helping out the cause and will be flying a group of Chihuahuas from San Francisco to the ASPCA in New York City. The airline is also planning a week of half-price trips for passengers willing to bring an animal to the Big Apple.

Other Chihuahuas are being driven to closer states, such as Washington, Oregon and Arizona.

Certainly some people are forced to give up their pets due to unforeseen circumstances, but the root cause of this surplus comes down to irresponsible people. Many celebrities, like Katherine Heigl, do a lot to support animal welfare organizations, which is no doubt admirable. But imagine if they focused their efforts on education. 

The AKC and the ASPCA do a lot in this area, but celebrities have a unique influence and a broader audience. If more famous people spread the word about responsible ownership, maybe we could get to the root of the problem and prevent homeless pets for good.


JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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