L.A. is going to the Chihuahuas
If you’re in a dog park and yell, “Here, Princess,” don’t be surprised if 1,262 Chihuahuas come running.
There are that many tiny pooches with the royal moniker registered in Los Angeles County and almost 60,000 registered Chihuahuas in total.
“L.A.’s Top Dogs,” a new database compiled by the Los Angeles Times and launched this week on its website (latimes.com/dogs) provides facts and figures on more than half a million registered dogs in Los Angeles County. That’s fewer than half the number of dogs actually living here, because many pet owners don’t comply with county and city requirements to register them. Nonetheless, the database offers a fascinating census of the dogs we live with and those we encounter.
In the law-abiding canine universe of Los Angeles County, Chihuahuas and Labradors and pit bulls abound. There are, to be exact, 59,684 registered Chihuahuas, 58,071 labs and 20,851 American pit bull terriers.
If Shakespeare was wrong and there is something in a name, then ours is a world filled with people’s fantasies about and hopes for their dogs. There are pit bulls named Angel and poodles named Rocky and 15 fluffy Pomeranians named Rambo.
Across the county there are 6,502 dogs whose owners literally deemed them lucky to be theirs. Lucky is the most popular name among registered dogs. An additional 743 dogs are Happy. And as proof that size doesn’t matter for happiness, there are 66 Chihuahuas and 63 German shepherds called Happy.
Either because they’re talented or as a homage to a rap star, two dogs are named 50 Cent. (A beagle and a Rottweiler.) And one Chihuahua -- whose people, perhaps, couldn’t abide bad grammar -- is named 50 Cents.
There are dogs named Beyonce, George Bush and George Burns. There are Madonnas and 192 Shaqs. There is a pit bull named Bradpitt and a pointer named Mike Piazza and 1,020 dogs named Kobe. And if you think the dog named Paris Hilton is a Chihuahua, the breed popularized -- for better or worse -- by the celebutante, you’d be wrong. It’s a Jack Russell terrier.
The canine compendium, which was researched and created by L.A. Times database producer Ben Welsh, reveals the most popular names, ranks breeds in terms of abundance and tracks the most common dog breeds by ZIP Code. (You can also plug in most breeds and see the top ZIP Code locations for registered dogs of that breed.) It lets the user play with it in a variety of ways. For example, where is the top locale for dogs named Daisy? Lancaster (ZIP Code 93536).
Even in a county of 9.9 million people, some dog breeds are rare. According to the database, there is only one Alaskan Klee Kai -- a smaller version of the Alaskan husky -- registered in Los Angeles County: Sparky. He (she?) lives in Long Beach.
Similarly, there is only one registered Ariegeois, a French pack-hunting scent hound. That would be Mimi of Montebello. Where exactly in the county the one Swedish Lapphund, Pepper, lives is unknown.
There are some caveats to the database. Although it covers most of the registered dogs in Los Angeles County, it does not include parts of Arcadia, Downey, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge, jurisdictions that did not provide official counts.
Also, the database relies on the accuracy of pet owners in reporting their dogs’ breeds to licensing agencies. The list ranks the American pit bull terrier as the fourth most popular dog in the county. Any dog whose license said “pit bull” was put in that category. But the term “pit bull” encompasses several breeds and mixes of them: the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier (24th on the list with 4,788) and the Staffordshire bull terrier (33rd with 2,857.)
As with any census, some expectations about dog demographics hold up and some don’t. For example, the second most common name for a Chihuahua is, predictably, Chiquita.
But forget about Chiquita and her posse basking poolside at Beverly Hills mansions as the dominant breed in that ‘hood. The most commonly registered dog for the Beverly Hills ZIP Codes is the German shepherd, followed closely by the Labrador retriever. Labs are also the most prominent canine residents in Malibu and Brentwood.
In reality, there are more than 1,000 registered Chihuahuas that live in Compton (in ZIP Codes 90220, 90221, 90222), making them the No. 1 breed there. The same is true for Lynwood. (The dogs in the American pit bull terrier category come in third in Compton.)
The distinction of having the most Chihuahuas in the county goes to the 91706 ZIP Code of Baldwin Park, with 1,438 of them.
Are Chihuahuas truly the most popular breed? City and county shelters certainly see their share.
“We get a lot at our shelters. It’s hard to tell, but it might be in the top five,” said Marcia Mayeda, director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control, which runs six shelters across the county. Mayeda estimates her department -- which has 40 canvassers -- licenses about 60% of the dogs in the unincorporated areas of the county plus other areas that contract for services. Currently it has about 254,000 dogs licensed.
“We get an awful lot of Chihuahuas,” said Ed Boks, general manager of the city’s Department of Animal Services. “The big concern is that Disney is coming out with a movie called ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ . . . . It will just encourage the breeding of Chihuahuas when we’ve already got too many out there.”
However, Boks reports that the Chihuahua is second on the list of most-adopted dog breeds in the city’s six shelters; the pit bull is first.
Boks says the city holds 120,000 dog licenses out of a dog population that, by some estimates, could be as high as 900,000. Boks said a contributing factor to the low rate of licensing was the shortage of canvassers (he has only seven) to catch scofflaws. Boks also said his department was working on a better calculation for the dog population, which he believes is below 900,000.
As always, the local animal agencies suggest people spay and neuter their dogs -- to avoid unwanted Princesses and unlucky Luckys overpopulating the shelters.
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L.A. County top dogs (Part A Edition)
The Times’ new database, drawn from pet registration records, amounts to a canine census of sorts. The top three breeds and the most popular names for each are shown above. To search by ZIP Code and see where your pet ranks, go to latimes.com/dogs.
3. German shepherd
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