L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

« Previous Post | L.A. Unleashed Home | Next Post »

Chihuahua fever: Local groups launch Project Flying Chihuahua to transport little dogs to adoptive homes


Chihuahuas have been flying out of California since other states learned about the glut of little dogs in the Golden State.

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.

A group of 43 will leave for New Hampshire today or Tuesday, said Kathy Davis, interim general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, who took part in a news conference Friday to announce Project Flying Chihuahua. They were supposed to leave Saturday morning, but bad weather on the East Coast caused a delay, she said.

The Nashua shelter found homes for the first 25 dogs and had a waiting list of 100 people, Davis said.

Heigl's foundation has paid the discounted airfare for all 68 dogs so far, she added, and new donors for more flights were being sought.

Virgin America will be flying a group of Chihuahuas to New York City from San Francisco on Tuesday, said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president overseeing the ASPCA adoption center in New York City.

They will be processed and should be available for adoption on Dec. 29, she said.

Buchwald said she didn't know how many to expect, but each dog will be escorted by a volunteer and Virgin America will provide travel for both dogs and humans.

The airline is also expected to offer a week of half-price trips to passengers willing to escort an animal to New York, but details have yet to be finalized, Buchwald said.

A call to a Virgin America representative was not immediately returned Friday.

Chihuahua2 Dozens of dogs have been sent by Oakland Animal Services to nearby states, including Washington, Oregon and Arizona, but most of them were delivered by car, Director Megan Webb said, because there wasn't enough money to fly the dogs to more distant states.

The Chihuahua crisis in California developed as Hollywood featured the dogs in movies such as "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and "Legally Blonde"; they became constant companions to the rich and famous; and backyard breeders saw a chance to make hundreds of dollars on each dog. The recession, however, forced some dog owners to abandon their pets.

California shelters soon found that Chihuahuas made up 30% or more of their dog populations.

Meanwhile, Buchwald said, there has long been a severe shortage of small dogs in the east.

Officials on both sides of the country are optimistic they can work out the imbalance.

Davis said finding homes for 68 barely made a dent in Los Angeles shelters, but it was a start.

"We have plenty more where those came from and we're more than happy to send them home for the holidays. If there's a Santa Claus out there, we're ready and waiting for you."

In the last 12 months, animal shelters in the city of Los Angeles have taken in 4,700 Chihuahuas, a thousand more than the 12 months before that.

Los Angeles has more than 300 Chihuahuas in its shelters now, Davis said, and they are taking in about 340 a month.

"The majority of them are healthy. They do need some socialization. Some we're finding haven't been well-treated in the homes they've been in. They need some TLC," Davis said.

It would seem plenty of people in the east are ready and willing to deliver just that.

-- Associated Press

Photos: (top) A rescued Chihuahua named Giganton ("the Big Giant" in Spanish) looks out from his crate at the Northeast Valley Animal Care Center in Mission Hills.  Giganton is one of the dogs scheduled to fly to the East Coast for adoption as part of Project Flying Chihuahuas. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

(bottom) Giganton visits with Kinder4Rescue volunteer Amber Dilena. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (4)

The comments to this entry are closed.

This is a terrific opportunity and a win-win for both animal shelters and Chihuahua's.
Please consider adopting a pet from your local animal shelter before visiting a pet store or breeder!

I absolutely believe in adopting rather than buying dogs, in fact I volunteer at a local shelter.

That being said, I'm very concerned that local rescuers are so eager to transport dogs out of state with what seem like very few protections for the dogs. Any reputable rescue not only provides adopters with support after adoption, providing advice, etc. for adjustment or behavioral issues that may crop up, but good rescues also guarantee to take the dog back if the adoption doesn't work out. This because if a rescue takes in an animal it has the moral responsibility to do its utmost to ensure that dog (or cat, rabbit, bird, etc.) is always safe and wanted for the rest of the animal's life.

That's an tremendous responsibility, but it's part of being a reputable rescue. But if you put a dog on a plane or in a van and just drop it off in a new state where is the protection for that dog? How do you know you're not adopting to someone who's too irresponsible to mend holes in their fences or gate off their balconies so the dog isn't lost or hurt? How do these rescuers know that a tiny Chihuahua won't be adopted into a house where the children will torment it or a larger, territorial dog could hurt or kill it? Only meeting potential adoptive families and doing home checks helps minimize these dangers.

Rescue doesn't end when you pull a dog from a shelter and stick him or her on a plane or in a van. Every dog pulled has only one life to live and it's important that each and every dog is pulled to go to a good home, otherwise so-called "rescuers" are only prolonging that dog's suffering. It's the rescuer's responsibility to do due diligence to ensure every single dog goes to a home that can responsibly care for it.

Animal rescue isn't a hobby or a part-time job. Loving animals doesn't necessarily qualify you to find and screen potential adopters to find good forever homes. Opening up a big wallet and buying plane tickets for small dogs who are in-demand in other areas of the country could, if done without reasonable protections for each and every dog, just be creating more pain and suffering for dogs.

This is a great thing that the people of LA are doing for this wonderful breed. I hope they all find loving homes!

Having adopted my own dog, I think this is great. I do know both from personal experience and from writing about dogs that most rescues screen potential homes very carefully. Many do visits before they adopt out. Almost all require you to fill out an application before approving an adoption and all require interviews to make sure all family members are on board and there are no issues. So I do think these dogs will end up in a far far better place than they left. Congratulations to these lucky pups!


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Pet Adoption Resources

Recent Posts