Breed Rescues Brace for 'Chihuahua' Movie
Rusco, who stars as "Papi" in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" was rescued from a shelter in California (Pet Pulse Photo Courtesy of Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
NEW YORK -- The upcoming Disney animated film "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is sure to spark some interest in the adorable pint-sized, fox-eared dogs that grace the big screen.
But Disney -- and certain animal advocacy groups -- are hoping the superficial admiration doesn't translate into people adopting or buying the temperamental breed on a whim.
"In Miami you see this trend a lot, and across the country too, thanks to Miss Paris Hilton. Chihuahuas aren't always really nice dogs. They can be interbred and somewhat nasty," Stacy Narcisse, president of Get a Life Pet Rescue, said.
It isn't that Narcisse has anything against Chihuahuas. Her Ft. Lauderdale-based non-profit organization is devoted to rescuing and re-homing small dogs, and frequently picks up deserted Chihuahuas on the streets.
She just hopes people will avoid repeating the "101 Dalmatian" effect, or when viewers saw the popular animated film and rushed to purchase Dalmatians without knowledge of the breed.
"People thought these dogs were so cute, and then they got them and realized that they aren't so great around children, always, and they can be high maintenance," Narcisse said.
"Disney wants people to learn more about the breed and make informed decisions."
Disney representative Andrea Rouche declined to comment on Disney's marketing strategies, or intent in creating and promoting "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."
But she did say that Disney has been inviting certain rescue groups -- like Get a Life Rescue -- to advanced screenings of the film.
She also deferred to a press packet, which tells the rescue and adoption story of one of the film's canine stars, Rusco, who plays leading character "Papi."
"We are very proud of 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' not only for its entertainment value but also for its strong adoption message, which focuses on various breeds of dogs, and we have included an adoption and pet care message at the end of the film," the statement read.
Get a Life Rescue teamed up with other local animal rescue non-profits on Saturday to host "Chihuahua in Paradise," an event designed to educate people on the breed and potential adoption opportunities.
"Everybody wants to be like the stars that tote their little dogs around in their designer bags," Narcisse said. "But people don't always research the breed. They have to be socialized and worked with and can be fearful because of their size."
Ada Nieves, of New York City, owns four Chihuahuas -- Cinnabon Bon, Vanilla Salt, Tequila Bon and Tabasco Chili Pepper.
She credits her "babies" for providing a crucial support system when her husband deployed to Iraq in 2005.
"It was a very emotional, difficult time for me. And I had my family, I had my friends, but at the end of the day, everybody went home and the dogs would still be there with me," Nieves said. "They provided me with a great level of comfort and helped me through some tough times."
But Nieves, who also set up a ZooToo.com Chihuahua group, Chihuahua Nation, agrees the small dogs aren't for everybody.
"Because they are so small and fragile, they really need more attention and care," Nieves explained. "They are also very smart and if they aren't well stimulated and socialized, that's when they become fearful and yappy."
Common misconceptions about a particular breed or dog can lead to surrendering a pet, Narcisse says.
But while landing in a shelter can rock a pet's existence, it doesn't always lead to an unhappy ending.
Just look at Rusco and many other dogs featured in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" that came from animal shelters in California and Mexico.
Head trainer/animal coordinator Mike Alexander says the Chihuahua mix's big ears and colorful expressions drew him to the abandoned pooch.
"We saw his picture online and called the shelter," Alexander said in a Disney Motion Pictures press release. "They said he'd been there a while and there was no guarantee he'd be around much longer. We'd been looking for a dog like that for so long, I was ready to spend the night in the parking lot."
"Beverly Hills Chihuahua" tells the story of a pampered California-bred Chihuahua, Chloe, who gets left behind on a family vacation in Mexico. With the help of a few friends along the way, Chloe sets off on a bark-filled adventure trying to get back to her native Beverly Hills.
The movie hits theaters nationwide on Oct. 3.
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The Sun Sentinel contributed to this article.
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