Why are there so many chihuahuas in shelters?
Do you remember the Tamagotchis? The tiny digital pet made by Bandi and released in 1997. Then came the Furby released by Tiger Electronics in 1998. Both these toys required interaction from their owner to thrive. Then the fad passed and the poor Furby ended his days upside down in the toybox. No harm done, they are just toys. So, what is the connection with chihuahuas in shelters?
Both in the UK and in the States chihuahuas are among one of the top dog breeds to end up in a re-homing shelter. What happens to the relationship between the dog and his owner that breaks down so badly that re-homing is the only option?
Chihuahuas have seen a steady rise in popularity, with regular exposure from celebs and ‘it’ people who tote them around in expensive designer bags. They even have their own film franchise! They are one of the top dogs to own. But unlike a designer handbag or a Furby, chihuahuas can live for 20 years, making them a burden once the novelty has worn off.
The miniaturisation of chihuahuas (sold as teacups) also helps fuel the idea that these dogs are not dogs but toys. The ‘Hello Kitty’ effect of big eyes and large heads that young women are hardwired to respond to makes them seem especially appealing. But these miniature dogs often have health issues which means vet bills. They will need constant attention or they will die. But not like a Tamagotchi, for real.
Chihuahuas are lovely dogs, but people who understand the breed will know that chihuahuas can be a handful. They are not for the feint hearted or the inexperienced owner.
They are the opposite of the demure little furbaby that will sit in a bag all day. Feisty, stubborn and full of character. A chihuahua that is not brought up correctly can quickly turn into a chi-ziller nightmare. Chihuahuas will bite. Chihuahua puppies are surprisingly destructive and love a good chew.
Since the rise in popularity they have been seen by some as a money maker. They have been targeted by the puppy farms and the inexperienced hobby breeders. Chihuahuas can change hands for £500 to over £8k from a boutique breeder. But, unlike responsible breeders no pre-purchase checks take place to assess the suitability of the buyer to own a dog. Neither is there a ‘return contract’ in place. (A return contract will compel you to take the dog back to the breeder if at any time you want to give it up.)
And if the dogs don’t sell, then they get dumped. The lucky ones get taken to the shelter. The unlucky ones get left in a box by the side of the road.
I spoke with one of the re-homing officers at Battersea Dogs Home, who told me that chihuahuas had come in to the centre unable to walk because they sit in a handbag all day.
Similarly, chihuahuas have been treated by vets for acid burns on their genitals because they are made to sit in urine soaked nappies.
When the next four legged Tamagotchi or Furby fad hits the streets the homing shelters must grit their teeth for the influx of discarded dogs.
There is no doubt about the link between media exposure and dogs as fashion accessories and fads. Should there be a ban on using dogs in advertisements and fashion shoots? We need to do something or there will be more chihuahuas in shelters.
We love your feedback, have your rescued a chihuahua? What do you feel about celebrities who carry chis around in their bag? Please leave your comments below.