Lead, South Dakota to Redefine ‘Wolf Hybrid’ as Wild. Problem? All Domesticated Dogs are Technically Wolf Hybrids

It’s hard to classify wolf hybrid bans and restrictions.   Do they classify as breed-specific legislation (BSL)?   Are they an exotics ban?   Or should wolf hybrids be outlawed altogether from pet ownership since wolves are wild and so too then are wolf hybrids?   It’s a tricky subject too when you add to the discussion the fact that technically all domesticated dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are ‘wolf hybrids’ since all domesticated dogs were descended from a subspecies of the gray wolf (canis lupus).  

The city of Lead, South Dakota has decided to jump into the discussion, whether wittingly or unwittingly since,

Officials in Lead are working to redefine the term wolf hybrid in an ordinance that prohibits keeping wild animals as pets inside the Black Hills city’s limits.

The effort was prompted by a May incident in which a dog that officials say is a wolf hybrid escaped from its enclosure and injured another dog . . .

Matters are complicated by the fact that the “wolf hybrid” owner, Mark Valdez, claims the escaped dog in question is a Siberian Husky, “with bloodlines that go back 30 years, and he has documentation to support the claim.”

The city of Lead and Valdez both took blood samples from the dog or wolf hybrid in question with very different results:

Lead police obtained a search warrant to conduct a DNA test for the dogs. [Lead Police Officer Paul] Witcraft said he sent the sample to the S.D. Animal Control board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for testing, and the sample came back positive for a wolf hybrid.

But Valdez said he conducted his own DNA test. He took his dogs to the veterinarian, had blood drawn, and sent it to Mars Animal Laboratory in Nebraska. The results came back negative for a wolf hybrid, he said.

Okay, now what?  

I guess since a DNA test is kind of a vague description, we need more information.   Perhaps the DNA test used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) only looks for certain genetic markers that could apply to both a wolf and a domesticated dog since how often would this scenario have come up such that the FWS would have to examine the sample more thoroughly?   Or perhaps a Siberian Husky is not far enough removed from the grey wolf for the FWS to have been able to determine that Valdez’s dog was in fact a domesticated breed.   Or perhaps genetic testing for domesticated dogs is not as precise as they would have us believe.  

Valdez himself maintains that,

“My sample wasn’t contaminated by a chain of custody like there’s was . . . My sample was done by a veterinarian and it was sent by the veterinarian. Theirs was done by a veterinarian technician, the blood sample was out of my sight for a few minutes, and a sample of blood was brought out and handed to Paul Witcraft. So there is a chain of custody there. Who knows if that was my dog’s DNA.”  

Valdez says that he will take the city to court to prove his case if necessary, but isn’t it interesting that the city of Lead seems to have no comment on the discrepancy saying only that they will continue to work on their definition of ‘wolf hybrid’?   We await the findings of the court since this case will have wider implications than just, Is it a wolf hybrid or is it a Siberian Husky?  


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