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Yesterday's fashion, today's surplus: Chihuahuas

Albert, a 1 year old short coat Chihuahua mix, available for adoption from the Seattle Humane Society, after being shipped from California, where shelters are overcrowded. Shelter staff described him as "full of life and fun and is bound to keep you entertained."

Was it Paris Hilton, or someone else, who first made the Chihuahua a fashion statement?

In any case, celebrities toting the tiny dogs helped make them an haute couture accessory. Now — like other fashions — they are moving to the next phase: overstock.

Animal shelters in California, especially in Southern California are overflowing with Chihuahuas. With many of them at risk of being euthanized en masse at facilities where animals “time out” if they are not adopted, animal rescue groups have jumped in to airlift packs of the little canines to safer homes.

"There is a real problem in southern California with a lot of overbreeding of the small dogs," said Rhonda Manville, marketing director at the Seattle Humane Society. "And whenever we get extra space here at the shelter, we open up our kennels to other shelters."

The Seattle Humane Society, a private nonprofit, has just received a shipment of 42 little dogs from Los Angeles — mostly Chihuahuas, along with some terriers, Yorkies and mixed breed minis via "Air Chihuahua," a program funded by the Jason Dubus Heigl Foundation. It was the second such shipment since November, Manville said.

They are becoming available for adoption as they get spayed or neutered, microchipped and run through other tests.

Celebrities, as well as the popular Taco Bell "spokesdog", helped drive the trend.

That inspired many "backyard breeders" to get into the act, said Manville.

"If they have a bunch, and don’t spay and neuter them…" then they start showing up on the streets and in shelters, Manville said.

The Idaho Humane Society and an animal shelter in that state last week reported taking in 67 dogs, mostly Chihuahua mixes, from an overcrowded shelter in California, said the Idaho Mountain Express.

Faced with a surplus of Chihuahuas in San Francisco, animal control officials were partnering with Virgin America to transport a pack of the animals to New York City, where the little dogs are apparently still in demand, the San Francisco Appeal reported.

It said the animals would receive a red-carpet send off at the gate, and fly in the passenger cabin where they will receive in-flight snacks and dog toys.

Martha Stewart's dog one of the winner's at Westminster

As a Valentines special, the Peninsula Humane Society of San Mateo is waiving the adoption fee for adopting 21 Chihuahuas it has in its care, the report said.

This kind of breed glut has happened with other dog breeds in the past.

"At one time it was Dalmations, at another it was Rottweilers," said the Seattle Humane Society's Manville. "There are trends in animal ownership. And we definitely do see that at the shelter."

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