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Image: VIRGIN AMERICA OPERATION CHIHUAHUA
BOB RIHA, JR.  /  AP
In this photo released by Virgin America, pilots welcome Rebecca Katz of San Francisco's Animal Care and Control and Chihuahua pups being flown to New York so they can be adopted into loving homes.
updated 1/6/2010 12:59:06 PM ET 2010-01-06T17:59:06

More than a dozen Chihuahuas from San Francisco are flying in style to new homes in New York.

The 15 animals are flying in the main cabin of Virgin America flights scheduled to leave from San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday morning.

Officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will meet the animals at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and help find them homes.

San Francisco animal control officials say Chihuahuas are in abundance at California animal shelters, but they're in demand in other states like New York.

Experts say pop culture is to blame for the overpopulation of the dogs in California , with fans imitating Chihuahua-toting celebrities like Paris Hilton.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: State scrambles for abandoned Chihuahuas

  1. Closed captioning of: State scrambles for abandoned Chihuahuas

    >> big birds, planes.

    >>> now to tiny dogs, we're switching gears here. we've become a big problem, animal shelters in california are reporting a glut of abandoned chihuahuas. a breed made popular because they've been featured in some movies and owned by a few celebrities. here's nbc's george lewis .

    >> reporter: call it the chihuahua crisis. out in california , shelters are putting out the call for help .

    >> we've seen an incredible increase in the number of chihuahuas.

    >> but i'm an heiress! i have a trust fund .

    >> reporter: blame it on those lovable little characters from last year's hit movie " beverly hills chihuahua ." or the chihuahua in "legally blonde."

    >> hi, i'm elle woods . and this is bruiser woods.

    >> reporter: not to mention those taco bell adds. and the fact that celebrities like paris and britney have been photographed with their chihuahuas. a lot of people thought -- hey, this would make a great pet. then had second thoughts. chihuahuas can be high-strung and difficult to housebreak. which is why many become unwanted. this is petunia, a 3-year-old chihuahua mix, quivering a little bit. some shelters in california say that fully 60% of the dogs they have up for adoption are either chihuahuas or mixes like petunia. and many are shipping the dogs out of state, even as far as toronto, canada.

    >> our shelter is not alone in this breed crisis, if you will. and with animal shelters being saturated with one specific breed or one breed of dog , it does make it little bit challenging to place all of them.

    >> reporter: the shelters are hoping their call for help will attract more people like svetlana henderson and her son, martin.

    >> we are gentle. they're just so cute and they can ride in the car and easy to manage. just, yeah, we have room in our home for another family member.

    >> reporter: shelters advise that chihuahuas can live to up to 20 years, so they want people to regard adopting them as a long-term commitment. for "today," george lewis , nbc news, pasadena, california .

    >>> and just ahead, oscar winner

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