'Project Flying Chihuahuas' Takes Off With a Little Help from Katherine Heigl

12/22/2009 at 01:00 PM EST

'Project Flying Chihuahuas' Takes Off With a Little Help from Katherine Heigl
Damian Dovarganes/AP, inset: Vince Bucci/Getty
It's Katherine Heigl to the rescue once again! Earlier this month, Heigl's foundation saved the lives of 25 Chihuahuas by paying to fly the small dogs from a shelter in Los Angeles to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua of New Hampshire (HSGN), where petite pooches are scarce.

"Those 25 dogs were adopted within three hours," says Laurel Kinder, whose L.A.-based organization, Kinder4Rescue, orchestrated the cross-country Chihuahua transfer. "We had a waiting list of 100 people who wanted to adopt those dogs."

Spurred to action by the staggering number of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixed-breed dogs flooding California shelters statewide, Kinder decided to start Project Flying Chihuahuas after that inaugural flight financed by Heigl. "These are small, cute, healthy, friendly dogs who are being euthanized, and that's a problem," Kinder tells PEOPLEPets.com. "We really should be getting these dogs out of the shelters and into homes."

That's the mission of Project Flying Chihuahuas, whose Web site shows a string of the diminutive dogs floating across the sky and leaving the famous Hollywood sign behind. A coordinated group effort between Kinder4Rescue and various animal shelters and humane societies, the project aims to pull these small dogs out of shelters in California and send them to humane societies in other parts of the country that lack adoptable small dogs.

"I was shocked to learn there was a shortage of small dogs at animal shelters in the East Coast," Kathy Davis, interim director for L.A. Animal Services, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "We get 320 to 340 Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes each month, and that's just Chihuahuas." How many animals does L.A. Animal Services take in? "We get about 4,000 dogs and cats per month," says Davis.

This past weekend, between 40 to 50 Chihuahuas from L.A. Animal Services were set to fly to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua via Logan Airport in Boston when a blizzard hit the East Coast. The hefty cost of the flight was, again, paid for by Heigl's organization, the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, named for her late brother. "The dogs were set to fly last Saturday morning, but it had to be put on hold because of Mother Nature," says Davis. "Whenever we get the okay to fly, the dogs are ready with their sweaters to keep them nice and cozy and warm."

How many more of these flights does Project Flying Chihuahuas plan to do? "Lots," says the project's founder, Kinder. "I'm getting emails from people all over the country wanting to adopt these small dogs. What I'm hoping to do is to get different celebrities to sponsor the flights." Even perhaps Paris Hilton, says Kinder.

Read more about Heigl's work with animals on PEOPLEPets.com:
Katherine Heigl's Foundation Saves the Lives of 25 Chihuahuas
Katherine Heigl Lends Furry Friends a Hand

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