Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals

How To Handle Hybrids?


Maine is implementing a new law that requires a wildlife-in-captivity permit for wolf hybrids, and spaying or neutering for any current owners of hybrids.

It is legal to own a hybrid in Virginia, but Virginia Code Section 3.2-6582 allows localities to set up permitting systems to regulate such things as how many hybrids a person can own, identification by tags or tattoos, and the keeping and handling of hybrids.

Today’s Washington Post article quotes Jim Doughty, who runs a refuge with wolf hybrids, as saying that this law unfairly targets hybrids, and that:

Any animal, no matter whether it’s a pure wolf or a Chihuahua or a pug or anything else, depends on the person and how they raise it. It’s the same thing with your kids. If you’re abusive toward your kids, they’re not going to be so good. If you work with them, they’ll be great.

I disagree with Doughty. Although I am an avid critic of breed specific legislation, I see wolves and wolf hybrids in a very different light from pit bulls and other dog breeds. No good comes of spreading the rumor that dogs and wolves are one in the same. For many reasons – including for safety, and from a behavior and training perspective – the public needs to be made aware of the fact that dogs are not wolves – and wolves are not dogs.

The difference between wolves and dogs comes across very clearly in John Bradshaw’s excellent book Dog Sense. The following video clip from BBC’s Secret Life of Dogs shows nature winning out over nurture when scientists try to raise wolf cubs like puppies (starting at 2:53 in this clip):

What is your experience with hybrids? Are you for or against a permit system for the ownership of hybrids like Maine has just passed?

Author: Heidi Meinzer

Attorney and Animal Lover, not necessarily in that order

8 thoughts on “How To Handle Hybrids?

  1. I agree with you Heidi. Another great blog post!

  2. Heidi, You are right on, as usual. There is a *huge* difference between a domesticated species – the dog – and a wild species, the wolf. Wolf-hybrids are still very close to their wild heritage, and may be “tamed” but not domesticated. It’s appropriate to treat them differently under the law than a domestic dog. There’s more here than just how they are raised.

    • Thanks for jumping in on this debate, Pat! I was really struck by the Secret Life of Dogs video and how different wolf cubs really are from puppies — and even at such a young age.

  3. Thank you thank you thank you! I agree whole heartedly with all of this. Years ago a pair of hybrids passed though the kennel of the shelter where I worked. We were fortunate that they were generally well socialized and there was a hybrid refuge in our state. It would have been tragic to have had to euthanize them but they came to us because their owners were unprepared to deal with their differences from domestic dogs. I think the idea of having a wild animal is exotic and appealing but few people are aware how exotic and wild they really are.

    • Thanks, Andrea. I’ve not handled hybrids personally, but am not surprised to hear about the shelter where you worked. There is no doubt that they are absolutely beautiful creatures, but that doesn’t mean they will make appropriate companion animals. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I agree, Heidi – this is an oversimplification, to say the least, and personally I don’t believe anyone should produce wolf hybrids and they should only be owned (because someone has to own the ones that already exist) with a special permit.

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