Chihuahuas crowd California shelters

July 25, 2011 at 3:22 PM
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SACRAMENTO, July 25 (UPI) -- Chihuahuas are cramming California animal shelters, as owners part with the tiny dogs made famous in "Legally Blonde" and Taco Bell commercials, officials say.

A "Paris Hilton effect" is to blame for a huge increase in the number of Chihuahuas showing up at the Sacramento city shelter, shelter spokeswoman Gina Knepp told The Sacramento Bee.

"We go through cycles of breed popularity, and we're still in the Chihuahua phase," Knepp said. "It's a very fashion-driven trend."

Popular culture has influenced canine ownership trends in the past, she said, pointing to the 1990s boom in Dalmatians after the film "101 Dalmatians," golden retrievers after the movie "Air Bud" and pot-bellied pigs because actor George Clooney had one.

But owners sometimes are put off because Chihuahuas are not good around kids.

Others are "back-yard breeders" who take their excess litter to shelters before they mature, said Daniel Torres, Sacramento's head animal control officer.

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Chihuahuas more than tripled at the Sacramento shelter, rising to 963, second only to the 1,381 pit bulls, said Lesley Kirrene, spokeswoman for the Sacramento SPCA.

"If there's an increase in the general public, there will be an increase in the shelters too," Kirrene said. "Some of the Chihuahuas will be unable to fulfill expectations."

She said the shelter has "had success placing the small dogs."

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