chihuahuas.jpgA San Francisco animal shelter and Virgin America have teamed up to send a group of puppies to new homes on the East Coast today as part of Operation Chihuahua.

A dozen Chihuahuas from a city shelter run by the Department of Animal Care and Control boarded the main cabins of two Virgin America planes and were flown to New York City this morning.

The department has an overabundance of Chihuahuas, possibly due to over-breeding in response to the demand for the popular ‘purse pups,’ agency spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.

“The breeding situation is always a problem. They could be breeding to make a quick buck, to meet demands for a trend,” Campbell said.

This over-breeding, combined with the large influx of puppies that have been dropped off at the agency by pet owners who can no longer afford to care for them in the poor economy, has put a strain on the under-funded shelter.

The shelter houses 96 dogs, and 34 of those are Chihuahuas, Campbell said.

“It’s been a phenomenon with Chihuahuas,” Campbell said. “It’s an amazing trend and there’s just not enough homes for them.”

But Chihuahuas are in demand on the East Coast, and the puppies are expected to be placed into homes quickly.

“They have the demand, we have the supply,” Campbell said.

The first Operation Chihuahua airlift occurred on Jan. 6, 2010, and all of those puppies were quickly adopted into loving homes, agency officials said.

“There were lines around the block for the last dogs we sent to New York. People will be fighting for them there,” Campbell said.

The dogs left the shelter at 1200 15th St. at 4:30 a.m. today and should be arriving at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York this evening.

Each of the puppies was escorted by a volunteer who will use the plane’s Wi-Fi access to document the dogs’ journey.

For pictures and updates on their travels, check out Virgin America’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Erika Heidecker, Bay City News

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