Wolf-Hybrid Dogs

I have to take issue with a headline in today’s news: “Feral Wolf-Hybrid Dogs.” The article is about public health officials conducting a welfare check on an old woman who found that she was living with 40 feral wolf-hybrid dogs. The dogs were seized and euthanized. My issue is pondering whether a wild species being bred into a domestic species can legitimately be identified as feral. A feral animal starts domestic and is turned out by its owner to become wild. A wolf-hybrid is not a feral animal because it was genetically born wild.

Walk back with me a few years… say maybe 30 years when there was a fad of owning wolf-hybrid dogs. Public health officials announced that no tests can be performed to determine if the rabies vaccination administered to dogs would be effective on wolf-hybrids. Even vaccinated for rabies, wolf-hybrid dogs would have to be treated as an unvaccinated animal. The problem with unvaccinated animals biting a human is that the animal would have to be tested for rabies following the incident.

Rabies testing of animals is very hard on the tested animal. It requires that the brain is removed so that tissue can be observed to be infected. In all of the years that I have worked in animal control, I have yet to see an animal that we could put back together. Although, many of the biting animals that we tested actually became better pets after the test.

It was interesting to note that following the public health announcement, the next round of licensing applications saw much fewer dogs being identified as wolf-hybrids. Those who had dogs that were obviously wolf-hybrids were surrendered to individuals who created wolf-hybrid sanctuaries. I was never surprised by reports of these sanctuary owners being eaten by their dogs under their care. You breed in wild, you get wild.

As a species, we never grew smart enough to understand that genetics plays a major role in the behavior of the dogs that we turn into pets. It is that ignorance that becomes job security for those of us who work in Animal Control.