James City County, Virginia to Look at Wolf Hybrid Restrictions Following Attacks
After a wolf hybrid attacked two dogs in James City, Virginia, the James City County Board of Supervisors is looking into restricting wolf hybrids. But the problem with banning or restricting wolf hybrids is 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 lack of distinction between a hybrid wolf and the domesticated dog in most pieces of breed-specific legislation (BSL) that bans or restricts wolf hybrids can cause trouble. For instance, Lead, South Dakota recently undertook the issue of wolf hybrids when a dog escaped its enclosure and supposedly attacked another dog.
The City of Lead claimed the attacking dog in question was a wolf hybrid, yet the dog’s owner contended that the dog was in fact a Siberian Husky. The City took a DNA sample from the dog and determined it was a wolf hybrid, while the dog’s owner also took a DNA sample from the dog and the results came back negative for a wolf hybrid.
Not only do the differing results show the lack of uniformity when it comes to DNA testing canines for breed, but also particularly in determining what is a wolf hybrid and what is a domesticated dog. Indeed, the example of Lead, South Dakota should be an eye-opener for those considering wolf hybrid bans or restrictions.
Like in Lead, what’s to keep a Siberian Husky owner from government harassment when Animal Control maintains the dog is a wolf hybrid, but the owner knows his dog is a Siberian Husky and even has breed club papers proving the dog’s lineage? In such a situation, is the onus on the city to prove breed, or the owner, or both? And then who will have been determined to be correct when the DNA tests come back with two different results?