Dog lovers cause frenzy at shelter

March 18, 2008 4:13:44 AM PDT
A frenzy of tiny-dog lovers has descended on an animal shelter that rescued hundreds of Chihuahuas from a filthy rural Arizona home, with some potential owners getting into shoving matches and others calling from around the globe. The nearly 800 small dogs, mostly Chihuahuas, and 36 parrots were found in a large mobile home northwest of Tucson last week. All that were old enough and healthy enough to leave the shelter were adopted by Monday, authorities said.

When news spread Thursday of the dog rescue, hundreds of people packed into the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in hopes of adopting the dogs, spokeswoman Jenny Rose said.

Tempers flared, and a few people got into shoving matches, Rose said. The sheriff's department cleared everyone out, and the shelter closed for the day.

The next day, Rose said, 500 people lined up to get the dogs, which included terriers, Pomeranians, Chinese cresteds and Lhasa apsos. The shelter passed out numbers and had everyone come back in groups of 100 each day.

"This has been uncharted territory for us," Rose said. "We would like to give everyone a dog who is interested in one, but we just don't have enough."

Rose said calls came in from Germany, Australia and across the nation. One man from Massachusetts found her cell phone number and woke her up at 8 a.m. Saturday.

"He said, 'I know it's 8 o'clock there, but I really want a dog,"' Rose said.

"Oh, thanks, that's sweet," she quipped.

The dogs were rescued from a home in bad condition with urine and feces everywhere, officials said.

Rose called it a hoarding case in which an elderly couple who owned the animals wouldn't part with them and felt no one else could give them a good home. No charges have been filed against the couple.

The animals appeared to have had enough food, but a few were missing paws -- some from having been attacked by other animals, others apparently having caught their feet in fencing outside, Rose said.

The parrots will remain at the Humane Society for two to three weeks because of medical problems, including malnourishment and infections, Rose said.

People who were in Thursday's line and didn't get a dog have been put on a waiting list and will be called when one becomes available.

The puppies are in foster homes and will be integrated into the shelter once they're the right age, Rose said. "You're just going to have to stop by and see what you get," she said.

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