Katherine Heigl Partners with Helen Woodward Animal Center to Promote Pint-Sized Pups!


Rancho Santa Fe, CA (April 11, 2016) – Helen Woodward Animal Center has some very big support behind a very tiny cause – tiny and furry, that is. Emmy Award winner and Golden Globe nominated actress, Katherine Heigl, a small rescue dog lover and owner, is lending her support to the Center's latest campaign to bring attention to small dogs looking for forever homes. With Chihuahua-blends flooding shelters across the U.S., it is hoped that her large voice will bring some gigantic attention to the bittiest breeds.

After pit bulls and American Staffordshire terriers, Chihuahuas are one of the most commonly surrendered dog breeds in the country. The ever-growing number may be attributed to backyard breeders hoping to capitalize on the quirky attention they received in the heyday of the Taco Bell Chihuahua commercials and the Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie. Whatever the catalyst, orphan Chihuahuas can now be found in California and Arizona shelters by the thousands. The program Operation Chihuahua Airlift, a project sponsored by Virgin America to help relocate the surplus of abandoned Chihuahuas in San Francisco to New York, was created to help find homes for the small dogs, but the over-abundance of orphan Chihuahuas is no longer simply a West Coast problem. The New York Post reported that a study done between 2010 and 2012 showed more than 800 Chihuahuas had been relinquished to Animal Care & Control shelters of New York, 1,060 were picked up as strays, and another 363 were brought in to be put down. Of these 2,276 New York Chihuahuas, only 1,549 were ever adopted.

Katherine Heigl, owner of three rescue Chihuahuas – Gertie, Gracie Lou, and Poppy, is an avid animal welfare advocate who teamed with Helen Woodward Animal Center in late 2014 as Official Spokesperson for the Center's international Remember Me Thursday campaign. The award winning actress, best known for her starring roles in such films as 27 Dresses and Knocked Up, and starring roles on Grey's Anatomy and the NBC drama series State of Affairs, is co-founder of the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an organization focused on ending the needless suffering of companion animals in our nation's shelters. A dedicated mother of two girls, she is also the loving guardian to a menagerie of rescue pets and was eager to put her support behind efforts to highlight the positive aspects of little dogs.

"Even though they are small, Gertie, Gracie Lou and Poppy have the hearts of dogs twice their size," stated Heigl. "It is devastating that so many Chihuahuas are abandoned to shelters and overlooked day after day simply because of their size and misconception of their breed. Our recently adopted Poppy is the embodiment of joy. There are so many dogs out there just like her waiting for a loving home."

Indeed, one of the major reasons small dogs are ignored by potential adopters is due to popular negative stereotypes surrounding the Chihuahua breed in general. However, because Chihuahuas are normally a blend of a variety of small breed canines, their personalities actually vary widely.

"No two Chihuahuas are exactly alike," stated Adoptions Animal Care Supervisor Mollee Sullivan. "The majority of Chihuahuas are blended with other breeds like Terriers, Pugs, and Beagles which gives them really cute, unique looks and personalities that vary from couch potato to super-sporty athlete. There seems to be a tendency to group them all in one category, but once you meet them you realize they each have their own unique personality."

Last April, with 26 orphan Chihuahua-blends in house, Helen Woodward Animal Center created an event to highlight the pint-sized pups. In conjunction with Southern California's popular Coachella Music Festival, animal-lovers were invited to the Center's CHICHELLA Festival. Attendees enjoyed music, a meet and greet with available pups, fun in the sun at an outdoor X-Pen Pavilion, and available one-sheets to promote all of the outstanding qualities possessed by Chihuahua-blends including: longer lifespans; easy portability; a wide variety of beautiful coats; adaptability to small apartments; a loving and personable nature; and impressive success as service dogs.

This year, the Helen Woodward Animal Center will, once again, celebrate small dogs at the 2nd Annual CHICHELLA Festival on April 16th. The Center adoptions department is connecting with partner rescue groups from as far away as Utah and Arizona to transfer Chihuahua-blends to the event. Other local rescue organizations are encouraged to throw a “festival” of their own on the same day. For fun tips and ideas on how to throw a "Big Festival for Little Dogs" or to receive a copy of the “Big Reasons to Adopt Small” One-Sheet, contact PR & Communications Director Jessica Gercke at Along with the festival, Helen Woodward Animal Center and the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation are releasing a social media campaign centered around the hashtag #MySmallDogIs. The program hopes to unite small dog-lovers and encourage them to share and celebrate the wonderful traits that make small dogs such great companions to help save more lives.

To check out Helen Woodward Animal Center's hugely loveable small dogs, to make a donation, or for more information, please contact Helen Woodward Animal Center Adoption Department at: 858-756-4117 ext. 313, visit or stop by at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe.

About Helen Woodward Animal Center

Helen Woodward Animal Center is a private, non-profit organization where "people help animals and animals help people." Founded in 1972 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the Center provides services for more than 57,000 people and thousands of animals annually through adoptions, educational and therapeutic programs both onsite and throughout the community. Helen Woodward Animal Center is also the creator of the International Home 4 the Holidays pet adoption drive, the International Remember Me Thursday campaign and The Business of Saving Lives Workshops, teaching the business of saving lives to animal welfare leaders from around the world. For more information, go to:

About Jason Debus Heigl Foundation

Established in 2008 in the memory of her brother, Jason, who was killed in an auto accident as a teen, actress Katherine Heigl and mother Nancy Heigl's mission is to end the needless suffering of companion animals in our nation’s shelters. Through sponsored sterilization programs, relocation and grant giving the Foundation has touched tens of thousands of lives. Their continued dedication and determination to bring the plight of homeless animals to light emphasizes that each of us can make a difference and change the fate for animals today. Please visit to learn more.