Unless you live in New York you might have missed the news last year that a wolf-dog hybrid was roaming the residential streets of Queens. No information was released about the owner(s) of the animal, which was found in Ozone Park. Picked up by animal control workers, the three-year-old female, named Lady, was not considered a wild animal, though she was taken off the streets and sent to a sanctuary for unwanted dogs. According to New York Animal Care and Control, Lady wore a chain and collar, suggesting some level of domestication, though authorities could not say for certain whether she received any vaccination treatments or Frontline Plus for dogs.
A similar case occurred the year before, in 2010, when three wolf-dog hybrids escaped from a pen in Lakes Region of Alexandria, New Hampshire. Every year in fact, there are several reports of wolf-dog hybrids across the country. It is generally thought that hundreds, perhaps thousands of hybrids are kept as pets throughout the U.S. Debate goes on over the safety issues involved in the breeding and ownership of hybrids, which is illegal in most states. The debate stems largely from a 1999 case, in which a four year old boy was killed by his family’s wolf-German shepherd hybrid in Muskegon, MI.
The idea of a wold-dog hybrid may sound peculiar, especially as a pet, but it’s not uncommon, nor is it particularly safe. Wolves bred with domestic dogs, such as an Akitas, German Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, or Husky, produce tame and intelligent cubs. But as the cubs grow, their instincts tend to curve more toward their wild animal side, making wolf-dog hybrids unpredictable and prone to aggressive behavior with humans—especially children—who they may view as competitive sub-alphas. Additionally, hybrids do not internalize the protocols of human-pet relationships as readily as a pure canine breed, making it extremely likely that an owner of a wolf-dog will experience aggression and misunderstandings. This often causes a slow buildup of frustration that eventually leads to the owner abandoning the animal.
While dogs are themselves descendants of gray wolves, who they are thought to have split from over 10,000 years ago, their genes, though chromosomally compatible, are now drastically different than those of their ancestors, making a mixture dangerous. This is why many states ban hybrid ownership out of respect for both the animals, the owners, and the communities that would be affected. If you see a wolf-dog hybrid, the most practical and safe course of action is to call your local animal control authority and to stay away from the animal.
Written by Amanda Green