The 42 Chihuahuas living in a garage in Northwest Miami-Dade appeared to be well fed and relatively healthy. Their owner claimed he never meant to have so many.
“He said he had two dogs, and they just started reproducing,” explained Melissa Barreto, a social-media specialist at Miami-Dade’s animal shelter.
A county animal-control crew responded to a cruelty tip at the unidentified owner’s single-family house on Wednesday, and found the 42 dogs.
Authorities declined to charge the owner with cruelty, given the Chihuahuas were found in what a press release said was “good condition.” But the owner had no hope of keeping 42 dogs in his house. “The limit is four,” said Animal Services spokeswoman Lilian Bohorquez.
After being removed, the dogs went through the standard booking procedure: shelter workers snapped photos of each, conjured more than three dozen names, and then posted them for adoption.
As of Thursday evening, the shelter’s website was seeking homes for Angel, Angie, Apollo, Atom, Basil, Becca, Blade, Bolt, Captain, Eddie, Falcon, Gina, Gemma, Gigi, Gretel, Hanna, Heidy, Helga, Holly, Jacob, Jake I, Jake II, Jade, Jenna, Jolly, Lizzy, Paco, Maddie, Mandy, Marco, Megan, Meli, Merry, Pam, Romeo, as well as five dogs left unnamed save for their assigned numbers: A1686634, A1686636, A1686637, A1686645, and A1686648.
The shelter’s count: 18 males, 24 females. Thirty-three were a mix of black and brown, four of white and brown, and five tri-color Chihuahuas. There were three mothers nursing eight puppies.
Bohorquez said the four-dog limit was calculated based on the size of the house where the dogs lived. Animal Services declined to provide an incident report or reveal the address of the house.
Being small, the Chihuahuas have much better chances of finding homes than larger breeds would, shelter employees said. But after a life in a virtual dog colony, adjustment issues are the main challenge.
“Behavior-wise, they’re just a little shy and a little fearful, They’ve never been socialized,” said Leo Romero, a county kennel supervisor. “They are healthier than what we thought at first. There is no sign of mistreatment, or malnourishment. They were fed. They, of course, are a little dirty.”
By Thursday evening, several of the Chihuahuas had already been adopted. And Chihuahua rescue organizations were in place to take most of the dogs, shelter employees said, but members of the public are given a chance for adoption first.
Anyone interested in adopting a dog can visit the shelter at 7401 NW 74th St. between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Adoption fees, which include some shots, cost $75 for puppies and $65 for dogs. More information can be found at http://www.miamidade.gov/animals/.
Miami Herald staff writer Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.