John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Whether it’s because of their popularity or tendency to bolt out the door is anyone’s guess.
When a dog is discovered in L.A. running loose through the streets or whimpering under a bridge, it’s likely to be tiny, yappy, and genetically prone to bite. That’s because the city has a disproportionate number of stray chihuahuas, as shown in this breakdown by data visualizer Brett Kobold.
“I am a dog lover,” says Kobold, who’s 23 and lives in Walnut, California. “I found that data set one day a few months ago and I was really curious what it could tell me.” The open data he chose presents the breed and date when dogs arrived at L.A. animal shelters from 2011 to 2013. Chihuahuas were the most common at 13,833 dogs, with runner-ups being pit bulls (7,767) and American Staffordshire Terriers (6,771). The least-collected dogs were dachshunds and Maltese, the latter perhaps because they trip over their ridiculous hair and don’t get very far from home.
Why so many chihuahuas? Well, at one time they were the most commonly registered breed in the city (top names: Princess, Chiquita), although the American Kennel Club indicates bulldogs are now L.A.’s most-popular pup. “[O]ne of the reasons I think they were the most abandoned is just the sheer volume of them,” guesses Kobold. “When there is a high concentration of them, I bet there is a higher chance they will be abandoned.”
His inquiry into dates revealed another interesting tidbit: spikes in shelter admittance right after the Fourth of July. In 2013, for instance, 168 dogs were taken in following Independence Day, compared a more-normal harvest of 90 dogs on July 3rd.
He believes the abnormal flood of canines is due to things that go boom. “As for the spike after July 4th, I do think it has to do with the fireworks,” he says. “I was reading a few articles about animals being scared easily by the noise. I believe the spike on July 5th is people finding the dogs the next day and bringing them into the shelter.”
A report in the Sacramento Bee backs up the theory, quoting a shelter manager saying, “July is always one of the worst months of the year for us.” (The period after New Year’s is also bad.) So remember the next time fireworks are in the forecast to keep the hound leashed, or have a high-enough fence it can’t vault it at the first explosion.