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'Twilight's' Kristen Stewart Has a Wolf-Dog ... Is It Dangerous?

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Recently, "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart talked to David Letterman about her pet wolf-dog hybrid:


A few days later, I was walking my dog with my kids in a Southern California park and saw a HUGE dog being walked on a leash. The owner told me it was a wolf. I instantly felt protective of my small kids ... are these animals dangerous?

We called Dr. Randall Lockwood, the ASPCA's senior vice president for forensic sciences, to find out.

momlogic: First of all, are wolf-dog hybrids legal?

Dr. Randall Lockwood: California and many other states have passed laws restricting the ownership of wolf-dog hybrids. Having pure wolves as pets is illegal almost everywhere, and first-generation wolf-dog hybrids are illegal in California. [Check Hybridlaw.com to find out the laws in your state.]

When enforcing the law, it often comes down to he said/she said, or how the animal is represented. The law is most effective for cracking down on people breeding dogs as wolf-dog hybrids.

[Editor's note: Stewart told Letterman that her family had gotten their wolves in Florida. Florida only regulates wolf-dog hybrids if the dog genetics are 25 percent or less.]

ml: With celebrities like "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart having wolf-dog hybrids, the breed seems to be gaining in popularity. But how safe are wolf-dog hybrids as pets?

RL: I have bred several myself in my research, and worked with them -- my dissertation was on the wolf. People who seek out wolf hybrids often do it for selfish and egotistical reasons. They want something exotic. It's a mistaken belief that somehow they are honoring the spirit of the wild. Yet they have produced an animal that cannot usually live safely or happily with humans. It can't live as a wild animal, nor does it have the adaptation of a dog.

Wolf-dog hybrids are not necessarily more aggressive, but they are often very easily
frightened and aroused. They're escape artists -- virtually almost every one I have
ever known has escaped. They can be predatory.

They are not suited to the wild world or the world of companion animals. They are
difficult to train. Wolves have enormous control over their aggression -- wolves rarely fight
other wolves. But when you breed wolves with dogs (especially protective breeds like Rottweilers), it's potentially a very dangerous combination.

ml: A study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association found that wolf-dog hybrids are the fifth most dangerous dog in America, causing 14 fatalities between 1979 and 1998. Should these dogs be allowed around children?

RL: I have been brought in as an outside expert in cases where wolf-dog hybrids have killed children. It's not that common. On average, there has been one hybrid-caused fatality a year over the last twenty years in the U.S. But if you are choosing a companion animal for the family, the wolf-dog hybrid should not even be a consideration. There are so many better options out there.

Wolves have strong social needs that people can't really meet. Wolves in the wild cover twenty to thirty miles a day finding food and communicating with their pack. If you put them behind a chain-link fence in a backyard, they get bored. That can be a dangerous situation.

ml: How many wolf-dog hybrids are there in the U.S.?

RL: We don't really know how many there are. The hybrid promoters tend to exaggerate the numbers to make them seem more popular and to seem like bad reports are more rare. But if the wolf-dog owners are talking to animal control, they'll often say their dog is a husky mix. So it's hard to get an accurate read.

Owning a wolf is almost like a cult for some people. It's this whole werewolf generation. But if you want to have contact with the wild, go to the real wild -- don't chain it up in your basement. How can you claim to appreciate the spirit of the wild and then put it behind a chain-link fence? Many owners say they're trying to help defuse the antipathy and bad press the wolves have had. I was doing wolf-appreciation programs thirty years ago. But all you need is the neighborhood wolf-dog hybrid to get out and kill a neighborhood cat or dog -- or worse -- and you'll undo all the good that our programs have done.

ml: Do you think that owning wolf-dog hybrids should be illegal?

RL: It certainly should be severely restricted and require a permit. Many states do specifically list wolf-dog hybrids on their lists of presumed dangerous animals; they require special housing conditions, insurance and permits -- as they should. Wolf-dog hybrids certainly have unique housing needs, and require special medical care. There are several reports of rabies-vaccine failures in wolf-dog hybrids. Even if the animal has been vaccinated, it is assumed to be unvaccinated. That means that if it bites someone, either the person who has been bitten has to start rabies treatment, or the wolf-dog has to be put down and tested for rabies.

ml: What happens to abandoned wolf-dog hybrids?

RL: If the owner is irresponsible or runs afoul of the law, the animal is very difficult to relocate. If a wolf-dog hybrid is picked up by animal control, it's usually euthanized. There are very few sanctuaries for wolf-dog hybrids.

I used to work with a wolf sanctuary in St. Louis -- the hybrids were kept in groups of five or six. They had an enormous amount of space and good veterinary care, but it's very labor-intensive and expensive to keep animals this way.

ml: What would you say to someone who wanted to get a wolf-dog hybrid?

RL: I can certainly understand their appeal: They are beautiful, intelligent creatures. But whether you're keeping tigers, wolves, chimps or whatever, this is simply not the way these exotic animals are intended to live.



next: Why Do I Try to Fix My Brother's Kids?
36 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous July 12, 2010, 7:52 AM

I’ve spoken to a friend who had a wolf-dog hybrid. He said the dog was great! I, myself, am a bit apprehensive to have one. I think it’s possible to have one that will be a great pet, but I think people need to keep in mind what they require and would not be a good choice for the average family home.

Wolfdogs Magazine July 12, 2010, 9:23 AM

Dr. Lockwood isn’t even qualified to have an opinion about wolfdogs. When he used to be part of HSUS he was their propaganda spinner for shelter sense magazine. He has no experience training wolfdogs and due to this lack of experience is considered by many to be not qualified to speak on the subject of wolfdogs. Anytime he was ever confronted about his position on wolfdogs, by people who really have knowledge and experience he would always say something like “I dont have a problem with people like you, its the bad owners I have problems with” Yet get him in an interview with the media and he starts talking bunk again. Wolfdogs are domesticated dogs according to the USDA and anybody who has ever raised one will agree. Dr. Lockwoods careless comments tend to cause over zealous animal control facilities to euthanize wolfdogs immediately if they are picked up. Dr. Lockwood has a history of sensationalizing wolfdogs for the benefit of drawing attention to himself and his own career. If you are really interested learning more about wolfdogs and getting a balanced view about wolfdogs from people who actually live with them, train them and work with them, subscribe to Wolfdogs Magazine at www.wolfdogsmagazine.org

angie n July 12, 2010, 11:10 AM

My parents’ dog, we believe is a husky mixed with a wolf-line. The person we bought him from wouldn’t let us see the mom. We saw the dad who was very long-legged and husky looking. We wanted a Siberian Husky, not a wolf-hybrid. My parents dog is very territorial and has free range over their 40 acre farm. Normally, huskies run and run and don’t stay put without containment. My parents dog also is VERY protective of my dad and mom and of their house. He can be aggressive towards strangers. All of these things were not taught to him, rather they were ingrained in him by birth. We have learned to watch for his triggers and keep him out of situations which make him aggressive or nippy. What I’m saying is that not all people intentionally get these wolf-hybrids. Ours was an accident, but he is kept confined in the house when my parents aren’t home. He is the family dog, but not as family-friendly as most huskies are.

Paula Harmon July 13, 2010, 3:05 AM

A story on the news last night was about a 5 year old boy was mauled to death by a wolf hybrid that belonged to his mom’s boyfriend, so if you ask me, I say TOO dangerous!

Alicia Burton July 13, 2010, 5:28 AM

First of all, ANY dog can be dangerous. Dogs take a lot of time, energy, care and love. A wolf-dog hybrid even more so. You have to really be committed to caring for your dog. They need more exercise and more socialization. It is good not only to give them plenty of exercise (by walking), but it is good to give them a job (agility classes, etc).

That being said, It takes 3 generations for a cat to become totally ferrel. The same the other way around. It seems to me, the idea would be the same with wolves and the hybrids. Go for one that has a few generations of human socialization behind it.

And, just like any other pet, Do not just go to any breeder. Make sure they are reputable.

Emily July 13, 2010, 6:44 AM

I’ve had a wolf hybrid (wolf/husky) and she was one of the best dogs I’ve had. yes she was territorial, yes she howled, yes she shed excessively (more of the husky than the wolf I think)… but she was also gentle and loving. I don’t think that as a “breed” a wolf hybrid, or wolfdog as they are called now, is bad. Perhaps it’s the breed of dog they are mixed with or the owner, but I don’t think it’s because they are part wolf. Get a good owner, and a good breed mix and you will have a GREAT hybrid.

pg July 13, 2010, 7:11 AM

Agreed with Alicia - we have a dog that many people think must be part wolf from how he looks. The breeder says for sure no. He IS very instinctual with behaviors but also was easily trained and is a velcro dog - doesn’t want to be anywhere but with us. He is docile & submissive. Unlike the family favorite golden retriever we had (and loved) for 11 years that finally had to be put down after biting my daughter on her face. Not his first bite, either. Bottom line is no matter the breed, they are animals and at any given time, for any unknown reason can and will act as such

Bobbi July 13, 2010, 8:19 AM

I had a wolf mixed dog once,she was 35% wolf and the rest was Shepard mix. She was a easy going, gentle dog, which we trained to sit, lay down sit up and stand up with only hand commands. She was an awesome dog and Never had any problems with aggressive or out of control issues. She was one of the best dogs i have ever had!

Susan Bickmore July 13, 2010, 8:22 AM

My sister-in-law has two 86% wolf hybrid. They are the most loving and sweet. Very loyal. I have 2 Shih-Tzus and I never worried about them around the wolves. In fact one of my dogs is blind and the female wolf literally mothered him and if he got where he shouldn’t go she would literally push him in the right direction. It really depends on the training for these dogs. My sister-in-law taught them that SHE was the alpha dog not them. They are great. I wouldn’t hesitate to get one if I had the room to let them run.

Bobbi July 13, 2010, 8:28 AM

I did the same thing. I got a book about wolves and then taught my dog, while she was a puppy, that i was the Alpha dog. I never had any fear that she would hurt anyone, She was a beautiful loving pet

paula July 13, 2010, 9:22 AM

I used to live in Florida when I moved in next to someone who owned about 4 or 5 of these hybrid wolves. My 13 yr old chow was on MY property but these creatures stuck their muzzles through my fence and grabbed her tail and forced her through an opening about 5 inches in diameter! Yes they drug my full grown chow through this opening! It forced the fence open enough that they got her in their yard and began mauling her! I wasn’t home at the time, but my landlord and kids managed to get her out. Even my other dog tried fending off the wild animals. I took her to the vet and he stopped at counting 24 bites and tears. She seemed to be doing well at the vet, but then died 2 days later. These animals are not safe for anyone! This happened in 1994 and I still am so distraught over what my poor MeSue endured. The pain, the fear of being almost eaten alive. I blame myself because I was not there to protect her! I contacted the Fish and Wildlife Dept and they said the didn’t know enough about these animals to put a ban on them! That was so stupid in my opinion. What if it were one of my children that was attacked? These animals are not to be bred and are certainly not your ‘family’ pet type animal that you can have around other people! This angers me so much how some brag and show off these wild animals.

Bobbi July 13, 2010, 10:21 AM

I am truly sorry to hear about what happened to your dog but any bread of dog can be either mean or gentle, it depends totally on how they were treated and brought up.Many have claimed that the chow breed is temperamental, overly protective and mean but it does not mean that they all are.There are good and bad in all breeds of animals.

paula July 13, 2010, 10:55 AM

These animals were not meant to be ‘cross’ bred. It is total selfishness to even have one of these animals around others. I had a pit bull, I got her when she was a puppy. I treated her and my other dog like they were my own babies. But she still had the aggressiveness nature in her. I had to give her up for all of our safety. She was trained well, but it’s in the blood. You can’t change that and I’ve heard all the stories. Yes some are well behaved and would not hurt anyone, but there are the millions that will and have. It’s a matter of human safety when it comes to having these kinds of animals and in my opinion anyone who would rather have that possiblity of it turning one day, are plain selfish! Just my opinion

Bruce July 13, 2010, 11:38 AM

As a veterinarian of 45 years, I agree with everything Dr. Lockwood says, verbatim. I had an experience once with a cross-bred animal because it took the arm off at the elbow of a 2-year old child. To Ms. Burton’s comment above about three generations to domesticate a wolf, try 10,000 years of evolution. Then one might be able to say it was partially domesticated.

Anonymous July 13, 2010, 11:49 AM

oh my god leave people alone

Anonymous July 13, 2010, 12:20 PM

Ok put all dogs you own away because they came from wolfs they were bred into existence by domestication not by breeding them from other animals mixing Pure 100 Percent wolf being domesticated how your german shepard or your poodle came to be! Believe small dogs of any style attack humans and other animals more than large dogs. I got my Hybrid from the animal shelter in in in wait for it California so State run instition gave me mine where it is supposedly against the law but really talking about laws hmmm let me see there is one in California that if you brake a dish in your home you can get arrested now enforcement of such laws are determined by the importance like if you cut a branch from a tree hanging over your property its stealing unless given permission by the owner to keep said branch or you must give said branch back to owner MY Point about people annoucning isn’t it against the Law for the owning a Wolf or Hybrid is laughable esp. since mine came from a state run instition I am sure there is a bylaw or ammendant that is why its a allowed people are allowed to Domestic a Wolf to improve for work,transport,or protection… The person with the animal is the problem not the animal the symtomm tomm tomm tomm tummms lol.There are laws that go above new laws that are more powerful in the courts. Wolf or DOg is dangerous only because of the human making them soooo.

CLASSASS2 July 13, 2010, 5:00 PM

I had a wolf/sheperd mix for 17 yrs, this was the BEST DOG EVER! Kodiak a white german sheperd/wolf mix saved my kids (4 kids) three times from being abducted! He was an excape artist loved to run especially with people riding bikes. He was as gentle as ever at 120lbs my kids rode him as a pony and got along great with other animals. May he rest in peace! I did pay endlessly to get him out of impounds! But we loved him dearly! He could jump 6 foot fences.

quesadilla July 13, 2010, 10:48 PM

Well, of course wolf-dogs are dangerous. Eskimo sled dogs have been known to bite the hands that feed them. Of course they have. ALL animals are, minimally, potentially dangerous, including all domesticated animals. Animals are not like humans; they are creatures, not children of the Almighty. Animals operate on instinct and instinct alone. They can be trained, yes, but it is only to receive a physical reward, such as a treat or a belly rub. A great many things could qualify as this physical reward; it’s not just limited to food and scratches. No animal will ever, as long as animals and humans exist, EVER, bear the burden of conscience. The rule is: If it has a conscience, it’s human; if it doesn’t, it’s merely a creature. Sometimes, animals can mimic remorse, but it is only a mirroring of a person’s face, when the person is remorseful. Animals are smart enough to catch on to when similar situations arise, and to catch on to read people’s faces. But no animal will ever feel remorse; it is an impossibility; that is why God gave it unto man to rule over the animals. Did anybody on this forum ever hear of a pit bull, say, killing a child? It happens, and if you really want to consider it rare, as you say, tell a woman whose baby boy just got mauled by the family dog how very “rare” an occurrence it is. I hope she slaps your face, hard, when you do, because she lost her own child to some damn animal, and you can’t be bothered to have the sensitivity to realize that ONE child lost to an animal’s remorselessness is ONE TOO MANY.

Bruce July 13, 2010, 11:15 PM

To Anonymous II…….Sorry, all domesticated dogs did not come from wolves. There were other species in the genetic makeup. Ten years of education taught me that. Of course, being from California and dealing with California shelters would lead me to understand your dilemma. There are more fruits and nuts in that system than anywhere in the world.

Victoria July 14, 2010, 5:31 AM

It’s all about how you raise it, nothing els. A dog can be dangerous if you raise it that way, the wolf can be good if you raise it that way.
I have dogs myself or my mom have them and they can be dangerous and kill like other dogs if they get in to a fight. (Westie)
We raise them not do it but they do it because it’s how it works, every dog does that. Even if they aren’t trained to do that. But if you train it, then it’s a different thing.
Just because it’s a wolf doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous than a normal dog. BTW, every dog comes from the beginning from the wolf like we come from the monkey.


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