Shelters anticipate influx of Chihuahuas

Impulse purchases of Chihuahuas expected in hit movie’s wake


An area animal rescue group is bracing for an influx of newly abandoned Chihuahuas after the box office success of the film “Beverly Hill Chihuahua,” which made close to $30 million its opening weekend.

The movie features a large cast of talking dogs and follows the story of a pampered Chihuahua who gets lost in Mexico and learns the true meaning of friendship.

The film’s commercial success has worried the New York-New Jersey chapter of Chihuahua Rescue and Transport Inc., a national organization that finds families for homeless Chihuahuas and educates people about animal abuse and neglect. A spokesperson with the organization, Lynnie Bunten, said that similar increases in what she called “impulse purchases” were observed after the release of movies like “Legally Blonde,” in which the main character had a Chihuahua, and long-running commercial mascots like the Taco Bell dog. She said that based on past experience, they are expecting “more than that” after “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

“I expect that we’ll be inundated with requests to take on Chihuahuas in about two or three months,” said Bunten.

She went on to say that Chihuahuas are generally not very good with children, which are the target audience for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” noting that the small size of the dogs can lead the animal to consider children, who may not know how to be gentle with the animals, frightening or intimidating. She said that before getting a Chihuahua — or any dog, for that matter — families must seriously consider the time and expense needed to take care of it. According to Bunten, many people also don’t realize that Chihuahuas tend to live a very long time, and so the commitment to caring for one is long, even for a dog.

“Right now I have several in foster care at my home, and the youngest is 10 year old and the oldest is 15. I fully expect the 15- year-old to make it to 20 years, because she’s quite healthy,” said Bunten.

Jay Elliot, Edison Township health inspector and supervisor for the Edison Animal Shelter, voiced similar sentiments that Chihuahuas tend not to be “kid-friendly dogs” and, like Bunten, he expects that the shelter will be taking in a larger than usual number of the animals in the future.

“We are expecting an increase,” said Elliot.

It’s happened with other breeds in the past. Elliot noted that when the movie “101 Dalmatians” came out, more people began dropping off Dalmatians, another breed not recommended for children. Similarly, when “Men in Black” came out, featuring a talking pug, the shelter began seeing more pugs.

He did say, though, that since such dogs are often dropped off with papers, finding homes for them tends to be easier, especially by using the Internet. Further, he anticipates that the Edison Animal Shelter will have the space to accommodate them while waiting for a family.

He also noted that at least the timing of the movie was good, since they tend to see an increase in pet adoptions during the holiday season, and breed-specific adoption organizations, which the shelter often communicates with, tend to be very good screeners to make sure new families are responsible.

Some Chihuahua breeders are also anticipating an increase in interest over the next few months, though Barbara Solinsky, who operates Misty Morn Chihuahuas in Franklinville, said that responsible breeders wouldn’t sell puppies when they’re viewed as a fad.

“Good breeders will not sell puppies at this time, [when] it’s only a fad. I will not sell, and I did not breed anything for this time,” said Solinsky.

She added, though, that “backyard breeders” and “puppy factories” do not have such reservations and will probably breed more Chihuahuas, even at the expense of the mother’s health or life, to feed a trend. Solinsky said she does not plan to see “Beverly Hill Chihuahua” and is telling all her friends to avoid the movie as well.

Pet stores have yet to see a marked increase in demand, though Doug Poindexter, president of the World Wide Pet Industry Association, which represents the interests of pet stores, said that they, too, have seen increased interest after movies make a breed particularly visible.

“Although our members are not currently reporting a large increase in Chihuahua sales or adoptions as a result of the success of the movie ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua,’ we do occasionally see an uptick when movies like this are released. The same situation happened with ‘101 Dalmatians,’ as well as movies like ‘Snow Dogs’ and ‘Eight Below,’ which featured Siberian huskies,” said Poindexter.

Poindexter joined the chorus of voices urging people to think about whether they have the time and resources to adequately care for a Chihuahua before they decide to get one.

“Chihuahuas are a wonderful breed but one that needs a lot of attention from its owner. Families should be sure they have the time and energy to dedicate to their dog to keep it happy and healthy,” said Poindexter.

Contact Chris Gaetano at sentnorth@