Project Flying Chihuahuas
It warms my heart when animal rescue groups work together because too many times we try to get things done on our own. On December 2, 2009 Kinder Rescue in Los Angeles teamed up with the Humane Society for Greater Nashua in New Hampshire to save the lives of 25 Chihuahua’s that were scheduled to be euthanized.
The plan came together when two guardian angels in the form of actress Katherine Heigl and her mother offered to underwrite the cost of getting the stray dogs to the rescue group 3,000 miles across the country.
HSGN executive director Karen Bill and Kinder Rescue director Laurel Kinder had been trying for the past three months to find a way to send homeless Chihuahuas back East. The tiny dogs are overflowing in Southern California animal shelters.
Chihuahua’s became a very popular dog for backyard breeders and puppy mills in the area, when celebrities began toting them around in their handbags. Since the craze, thousands of them have been abandoned by their owners or by breeders who are unable to sell them.
The majority end up in animal shelters where they have become the second most common dog euthanized in Los Angeles. Only Pit bull dogs are euthanized more often.
The story is quite different in New Hampshire and in other parts of the northeast where the miniature dogs are scarce. Tammy DeVito, the Animal Care Director for HSGN said, “We have many people looking for them (Chihuahua’s), but we never have them in the shelter.”
Karen Bill reported to People Magazine, “It’s a Hollywood-made crisis. From Beverly Hills Chihuahua to Paris Hilton, people see these dogs and think they’re cute accessories, but they’re not. They’re living beings that need attention.”
The mission called Project Flying Chihuahuas seemed like a winning plan, but as the two groups moved forward they realized the expense to transport the dogs would be out of their reach. They were about to scrap the idea when they found out about the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation. The organization supports animal rescue efforts and was named in honor of Katherine Heigl’s late brother. It is run by her mother. Both women have been involved in the welfare of animals for several years.
The foundation offered $25,000 to fly the dogs from Los Angeles to Boston’s Logan airport. The 25 Chihuahua’s and Chihuahua mixes boarded an American Airlines flight on Wednesday, December 3rd.
All of the pint sized pups, which range in age from 1 to 4 years old, were evaluated by a veterinarian the next day.
By Friday morning HSGN reported having a “plethora” of interest from residents. Bill said, “The response has been phenomenal. We had more than 40 voicemails from families inquiring about these dogs. I can guarantee we’ll have a line out the door when they are ready for adoption. Soon all of these dogs will have Hollywood-themed names, too, to tie them to their L.A. roots. We already have a Stallone, because he’s a little tough guy.”
Project Flying Chihuahua’s will not be a solo mission. Another transport is tentatively scheduled in two weeks because so many people are interested.
Even though Hollywood has arrived on the doorstep of HSGN it didn’t appear that the fame would be going to their heads. The group also took the time to remind New Hampshire residents that their shelter had lots of other great dogs that would be wonderful family companions.