A baby in Alabama has died after being attacked by the family dog. The three-month-old suffered severe head injuries and was transported to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. The animal, said to be a “wolf-hybrid,” was euthanized by authorities and taken to the Alabama State Diagnostics Laboratory for further examination. Shelby County Coroner Lina Evans confirmed that the dog’s lineage included wolves.
Experts have warned about the dangers of keeping so-called “wolf-hybrids” as pets, saying that their behavior is unpredictable and poses a significant safety threat. Wolf-hybrids are dogs that result from mating wolves with domestic canine breeds. The dogs most often used for breeding are Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas, and German Shepherds. Experts say such animals can be good pets but advise potential owners that wolves retain the traits of wild animals, and as such, their temperament is not entirely understood.
Experts at the International Wolf Center warn that dogs and wolves are very different animals despite their shared ancestry. Wolves have not been domesticated and are evolutionarily designed to hunt for food and fight when threatened. Dogs, however, are permanently altered by thousands of years of domestication by humans.
The organization also notes the many myths surrounding hybrids that can mislead people into believing the animals are safe, or can carry out certain tasks. For example, people often think hybrids make effective security animals when the opposite is true. “Due to the shy nature of wolves, hybrids usually make poor protection dogs,” the group says.
Laws on ownership of the animals – often referred to as Wolfdogs – vary from state to state, but at the federal level, the law describes them as domestic animals. In some states, conversely, they are classified as wild, and owners must obtain the same permits and provide the same living environment as a person who keeps a wolf.
The Wolf Center says regulations are constantly changing, and it is up to owners to ensure they stay within the law.