Virgin America’s Chihuahua Airlift Highlights Overpopulation


doggieSomething really cute caught my eye yesterday when I woke up to pictures of a group of chihuahuas, all gussied up for St. Patrick’s Day, ready to board a Virgin America flight to New York where they would all find new homes and escape their shelter lives in California. After the cuteness wave washed over me and a quick check to see if the accompanying flight discount applied to any trips I’m planning (no, they rarely do), I was struck with the mixed feelings of sadness and annoyance that California has a growing problem with chihuahua overpopulation.

When we were searching for our dog last year, it felt like almost every dog we encountered in shelters and on Craigslist were either part Chihuahua or pit bull. It was overwhelming. Many people on Craigslist would try promote the breed mixed with the chihuahua. I’d see a pug listing, then jump on the link, only to see a photo that showed a dog who was a pug-chihuahua mix. Seek out low cost spay and neuter clinics, people!

The reason the dogs were flying from San Francisco to New York is that chihuahuas are great apartment dogs that work well in urban environments. Yet, while chihuahuas fit well into a New York lifestyle, they don’t have an overpopulation problem in that region. California, on the other hand, does, leaving San Francisco Animal Care and Control to partner with Virgin American and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to export a few of our excess chihuahuas to New York, where they will be quickly adopted. The partnership began in 2010, and in that time, California’s chihuahua overpopulation has continued to grow. This is sad. Before writing this, I searched chihuahua on Craigslist for the SF Bay Area and saw 130 results for the last two days. Some of those listings are for single dogs, but most are for entire liters.

Virgin sent the dogs off in style where they all rode in the cabin with volunteer handlers and human passengers received cupcakes and chi-mosas, along with information about rescue adoptions. I love this, but it does feel a little like preaching to the choir where the real outreach is needed for people who don’t spay or neuter, but of course, that is a much harder campaign that has been tried many times in the past. The message is getting out on rescues to the point where people feel free to tell me that we should have adopted from a shelter instead of a breeder, yet I know a few of those people who aren’t on top of spaying or neutering.

Our dog goes in tomorrow to be spayed, and while it’s not cheap and I feel bad about causing her pain, this is much better for everyone in the long run.

I hope #operationchihuahua will help bring attention to our overpopulation problem. Thank you to SF ACC, Virgin America and the ASPCA for they’re work on this. 

To see pictures from the event yesterday, search for #operationchihuahua on Twitter and Instagram. Also, the fare sale on Virgin America runs through most of tomorrow. For every ticket purchased, $10 will be donated to the SF ACC.

Images courtesy of Virgin America

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