OAKLAND -- The East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is hosting its first Great Chihuahua Challenge in an effort to curb the overpopulation of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes in the Bay Area.

The East Bay SPCA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the welfare of cats and dogs, and 11 other Bay Area animal shelters and rescue groups aim to spay/neuter 500 Chihuahuas by the end of May.

The Great Chihuahua Challenge is an expansion of the SPCA's Chihuahua Palooza, an outreach effort to educate and spread awareness of the Chihuahua overpopulation. The challenge is an "effort to tackle the Chihuahua problem not just from the adoption angle but the spay/neuter angle," said Laura Fulda, vice president of marketing and development for the SPCA.

Since Hollywood began featuring Chihuahuas prominently in movies such as "Legally Blonde" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and celebrities like Paris Hilton began using the small dogs as an accessory, the demand for ownership has skyrocketed.

But once owners realized that Chihuahuas require the same amount of care and training as any other pet, many of the dogs found themselves homeless or in animal shelters. Now they make up more than 20 percent of the animals at Bay Area shelters, Fulda said.

"A lot of times people adopt smaller dogs thinking they won't be a lot of trouble, but then they realize they aren't just an accessory to carry around at parties. These are dogs that need to be fed and taken out on walks," she said.


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Chihuahua owners must register their dogs in advance; The Chihuahua or Chihuahua mix must be younger than 7 years old and weigh no more than 15 pounds.

The Great Chihuahua Challenge offers a $20 spay/neuter -- compared to a normal cost of up to $125 -- and includes a vaccination for distemper and rabies.

The Challenge will be May 6-10 at the Oakland Surgery Center, 410 Hegenberger Road.

For more information, call 510-639-7387 or go to www.eastbayspca.org/palooza.

Great Chihuahua Challenge
When: May 6-10
Where: Oakland Spay/Neuter Surgery Center, 410 Hegenberger Rd.
Registration: $20, includes a vaccination for distemper and rabies. Microchip is an additional $10. Owners must register in advance.
Age-weight: Chihuahuas must be younger than 7 years old and weigh no more than 15 pounds.
Info: 510-639-7387 or www.eastbayspca.org/palooza
Other participating shelters: Berkeley Animal Services, Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, Hayward Animal Services, Humane Society Silicon Valley, Marin Humane Society, Oakland Animal Services, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, San Francisco SPCA, San Jose Animal Care Center, Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority; Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation