Most of us learned the concept of supply and demand in Economics 101. It’s the relationship between the quantity of a commodity that producers have available for sale and the quantity that consumers are willing and able to buy. It hadn’t occurred to me that this model could apply to pets, but as it turns out, it can. Look at chihuahuas for instance. Here in California, we have a large supply of chihuahuas, more than there is a demand for. That’s why last week 15 homeless chihuahuas were transported from San Francisco to New York City to be placed for adoption. More than 100 New Yorkers stood in line outside of the New York ASPCA for a chance to adopt one of the little dogs.
In Los Angeles, chihuahuas are the city’s most popular breed. At just one shelter in L.A., 100 more chihuahuas came through their doors in 2009 than in 2008. “Chihuahuas are the most popular breed of dog in Los Angeles, so it makes sense it is the most abandoned breed,” said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. In Northern California, a third of San Francisco’s shelter dogs are either chihuahuas or chihuahua mixes. There are so many chihuahuas at shelters in Oakland, they have started shipping the dogs out of state, said Megan Webb, director of Oakland Animal Services. They have sent close to 100 chihuahuas to Washington, Oregon, and Arizona.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to sharing the wealth of the little dogs is a lack of money to fly them to other states. Recently, a large financial contribution from actress Katharine Heigl made dreams come true for 25 chihuahuas from L.A. shelters. The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation (named for Katharine’s late brother) rescues dogs in danger of euthanasia. The foundation came up with the $25,000 needed to fly the little dogs from L.A. to the Humane Society for Greater Nashua in New Hampshire. All the dogs were bathed, spayed or neutered, tested for heartworm, and given miniature jackets to keep them warm. This event was so successful that the city is preparing to fly out 40 more chihuahuas as soon as donations are received and the dogs are ready.
If, like me, you wonder why there is such a large supply of chihuahuas in California, you can blame Hollywood. Animal experts place most of the blame on the breed’s status as a pop-culture icon. From the famous Taco Bell dog to Paris Hilton’s dog and the stars of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde, chihuahuas are everywhere in Hollywood. Many call it “the Paris Hilton syndrome.” The high demand for chihuahuas meant an increase in the number of dogs being bred, sometimes ruthlessly. According to Deb Campbell with San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control, “A lot of breeders feed into whatever dog is in the media and crank them out to meet demand. But they went overboard. Backyard breeders also jumped on board and pretty soon, the number of dogs out there had gone past the demand.”
Another reason why chihuahuas seem to end up at shelters is that sometimes people decide to buy a chihuahua based on their cute appearance and without researching the breed ahead of time. People may also think that because chihuahuas are small, they don’t need space to run and play. In fact, many experts recommend that you provide your chihuahua with a fenced-in backyard that allows them to run around freely and walk them every day. Another thing to consider, chihuahuas are dogs who don’t like to be left alone; they prefer to be around people or other chihuahuas. They bark relentlessly if ignored. They’re also prone to health problems such as malformed kneecaps, which forces them to hop when walking, and dental infections resulting from undersized jaws. I don’t want to discourage anyone from adopting a chihuahua, as they are wonderful dogs who love to give and receive attention, will follow you everywhere, and enjoy nothing more than cuddling on your lap. But just as you would with any other potential dog, make sure to discuss personality and health issues with trained shelter employees before adopting.
To give you an idea of how over-supplied California is with chihuahuas, in Santa Barbara County alone there are close to 100 Chihuahuas that are currently available for adoption. If you are looking to add a chihuahua to your family, please adopt. There are so many loving animals that are homeless in shelters patiently awaiting new homes.