The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have adopted a rescue beagle called Mamma Mia, after turning down a puppy in favour of a harder-to-rehome older dog.
The couple, who live in a seven-acre property in Montecito, California, with two other dogs, made a private visit to the Beagle Freedom Programme to meet one of the 4,000 animals rescued from a breeding and research plant.
The owner has disclosed she originally thought she was speaking to actress Megan Fox for a half-hour conversation, after the Duchess called on an unknown number and introduced herself using only her first name.
The Duke and Duchess went on to visit the centre after hours, meeting seven-year-old Mamma Mia and her eight puppies.
Shannon Keith, an animal rights attorney who runs the Beagle Freedom Project, told the Los Angeles Times: “The Duchess called me personally.
“She calls on my cell with no Caller ID and says, ‘Hey Shannon, this is Meghan.”
Ms Keith said they talked for 30 minutes and she wondered if it was Megan Fox, before realising it was the Duchess of Sussex.
“The Duchess is holding Mia and was like, ‘We’re adopting her’,” she said.
“She was like, ‘No, we don’t want a Christmas puppy. We want ones we can help who are older.’”
She added Prince Harry had paused to ask whether the dog, known as Mia, had a favourite toy before they took her home, waiting for her to select a cuddly fox to take with her.
The Duchess has previously adopted a number of rescue dogs, including beagle Guy who flew to a new home in the UK after she married Prince Harry. Bogart, an older dog, was left with friends in Canada, considered unable to safely make the journey.
The Sussexes have since acquired a labrador called Pula, named for the Botswanan word for rain or good luck.
The Duchess chose animal welfare charity Mayhew as one of her patronages after marrying into the Royal family.
She has previously said the rescue dogs “mean the absolute world” to her, referring to them as “my loves” and “my boys” and using the #adoptdontshop hashtag in her Instagram posts.
News of the dog emerged a day after the Duchess’s podcast, Archetypes, streamed its first episode: an interview with Serena Williams.
Meghan’s podcast beaten in charts by controversial Joe Rogan
The podcast has reached number two in the UK and US Spotify charts.
In America, it was beaten to the top spot by the Joe Rogan Experience, which earlier this year became the focus of high profile complaints – including from the Sussexes – over its anti-vax opinion and Covid-19 “misinformation”.
The Duchess’s podcast generated headlines after she claimed she had been compelled to carry on with official engagements during a 2019 tour of South Africa despite being distressed about news of a small fire in her son’s empty nursery.
Her account of asking her team to make news of the fire public and letting her miss an engagement has been questioned by multiple sources, who insist members of the modern Royal family cannot and would not be forced to undertake official duties against their will.
One said the Duchess could have stayed at the residence with her son Archie if she had chosen to. She had previously skipped engagements during a tour of Australia due to feeling tired and unwell during her pregnancy.
The next episode of the podcast, starring singer and self-proclaimed diva Mariah Carey, is out on Tuesday.