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The young woman was very specific: She wanted a Chihuahua, “just like Tinkerbell,” the petite pet of Paris Hilton. She waited weeks, coming back often to look at the dogs in this Southern California animal shelter. So, when “Teensy” a 1-year-old Chihuahua was recently surrendered by her owners, she signed the adoption papers and popped the pooch straight into her purse.
Unfortunately, she was back three weeks later. The dog had pooped in her bag, run into traffic and barked a lot. “Like so many people who got these little dogs because celebrities have them, she wasn’t prepared for the reality of taking care of her,” the shelter’s director tells PEOPLEPets.com.
California is in the midst of a Chihuahua explosion with animal shelters and rescue operations jammed with tiny little dogs like Teensy. In L.A. the situation was so dire, that Katherine Heigl helped get 25 of the pocket-sized pups airlifted to New Hampshire, where they were adopted immediately. A third of the canines in the San Francisco city shelters are Chihuahuas and in Oakland the population has reached a whopping 50 percent. Experts say those numbers are unprecedented.
The Chihuahua glut started about three years ago, according to Nancy Goodwin, director of the City of Laguna Beach Animal Shelter. “Breeds get popular and then when times get tough, weâ€™ll see an influx of them given up. Years ago it was German shepherds,” she says. “Now itâ€™s the little dogs.”
In the last few years a lot of younger people are coming into the shelters looking for the tiny pups. “They tell us they want to carry the dogs in their purses just like the celebrities,” says Goodwin. “And sometimes thatâ€™s not as much fun as it looks. They are a responsibility.”
Blame it on Paris. Blame it on Taco Bell. But the combination of movies (2001’s Legally Blonde, 2008â€™s Beverly Hills Chihuahua) and tabloid photos of celebrities toting their pint-size pets in huge purses has resulted in overpopulation, according to Steve Kragenbrink, of the Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo.
“Some of this is accidental breeding,” says Kragenbrink. “Some of it is people trying to make money by breeding, which makes for too many of one kind of animal.” The solution is to spay and neuter pets. “Thereâ€™s no reason for a dog not to be fixed,” says Kragenbrink, whoâ€™s taken Chihuahuas from L.A. shelters to his location for adoption. “The alternative to spaying and neutering is euthanasia. Thatâ€™s a cruel and unnecessary solution to overpopulation.”
If you’re interested in adding a pet to your family, consider adopting or fostering a Chihuahua. For more information click here.