Shelters and Pounds
Shelters and pounds, or animal-control facilities, are also a source of potentially adoptable adult Chihuahuas. In fact, these facilities remain the primary sources of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes selected by service-dog training agencies as potential service dogs for the hearing impaired. Many people think that shelters and pounds are interchangeable, that they are set up the same way and offer the potential adopter the same services. Although both facilities do offer dogs for adoption, there are some significant differences between the two that are important to understand when searching for an adult Chi to rescue.
Because of antidiscrimination laws, municipal animal-control facilities are required to adopt out any animal to any person without asking questions. For the oft-abused Chihuahua, this adoption philosophy can be tragic. Fortunately, Chihuahua rescues try to network with these facilities and save as many Chis as possible though there will always be too many that fall through the cracks.
Animal-Control Facilities (Pounds)
Animal-control facilities are not privately funded through donations. Instead, they are run on municipal funds. Since most communities don't budget much for this service, animal-control facilities are frequently run on a shoestring budget. They have minimal facilities and can only keep dogs for a very limited time period. Most of the dogs there are strays that have no identification and have been picked up by animal-control officers.
When a stray dog enters a pound, it is tagged with a number and put in a large kennel or run with all other dogs gathered up that day. Because the dogs are not treated for fleas or ticks or medicated for any diseases, unvaccinated dogs run a significant risk of being exposed to deadly canine viruses. The dogs are not spayed or neutered either, as the facility's main concerns are removing stray dogs from roaming the streets. Dogs in estrus can become impregnated if kept with intact males.
Why do the dogs have to be euthanized?
It is not that the staff doesn't want to help these dogs or keep them longer. Instead, they are limited by their space constraints. Dogs remain at the shelter only as room allows before they are destroyed to make room for new strays that have just been picked up.
If you adopt from a pound, you will be on your own in determining a dog's temperament, behavior, and physical health. As noted previously, animal-control facilities don't have the money to hire folks to evaluate and place dogs. In fact, because of the city's nondiscrimination laws, the pounds must place any unclaimed dog with any person who is able to pay the adoption fee. Good dogs can be found in pounds; however, it is advisable to bring a Chi expert with you to help you in evaluating any prospective pets.
Nonprofit shelters generally offer more evaluation and placement services than animal control. Depending on the number of volunteers, the experience of the staff, and the all-important operating budget, a shelter may provide anything from very limited services (comparable to a local pound but with the ability to screen adopters) to an extensive array of programs.
Some of the very best shelters provide veterinary care (such as altering, vaccinations, heartworm testing and treatment, flea/tick treatment), professional screening of prospective owners and placement of dogs by certified animal behaviorists, extensive temperament testing, and even training by skilled and experienced dog trainers to help difficult dogs become easier to place.
Most shelters will fall somewhere in between those that offer the very best services and those that offer services that are more limited in scope. Regardless of the shelter's abilities, staff members and volunteers can still be extremely helpful to potential adopters.
When a dog is surrendered to a shelter, the staff has the owner fill out a questionnaire detailing the dog's temperament, likes, dislikes, age, and the owner's reason for relinquishing the pet. Keep in mind that an owner who is giving up his pet will frequently make up all kinds of problems so that he doesn't feel as guilty or is perceived by the staff as being a lout for giving up a perfectly good dog. For this reason, take the information you find on the intake sheet with a grain of salt.
Chihuahuas are notoriously difficult to housetrain. If you see that the previous owners couldn't housetrain the Chi, don't despair. Unless the dog has a health problem (which your veterinarian can diagnose and potentially treat), with time, patience, and a lot of diligence, most Chihuahuas can become reliable in the housetraining department.
Perhaps more important than the surrendering owner's information is the input and observations from shelter staff and volunteers. Ask everyone you can find what they think of the dog you're interested in and how she's behaved since she's been at the shelter. If she's a great little dog, you'll hear some very enthusiastic responses.
Small breeds and mixes of small breeds are extremely popular, and shelters report that they don't have any troubles adopting out the little guys. In fact, many potential adopters are put on a waiting list. If you would like to adopt a Chi from a shelter, try to be patient and consider being flexible in your dog requirements. If you're set on a female, you might pass up the best possible companion just because he happens to be male. Try to judge each dog on an individual basis.