Board of Game tightens laws restricting wolf hybrids

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Board of Game is taking a new approach to enforcement of state laws that prohibit owning or selling wolf hybrids.

The board on Wednesday made the trade of such animals illegal if they are advertised as wolves or wolf hybrids.

In an effort to gain cooperation from pet owners, the board grandfathered in existing wolf hybrids. Any wolf hybrid owner in Alaska can now make a pet legal by registering it with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by July 1.

All wolf hybrids must also be spayed and neutered and implanted with a microchip by the deadline. Owners must license the animals, keep records of vaccinations and may not transfer pets to someone other than an immediate relative.

If the new regulation works, hybrids will become a thing of the past when Alaska's existing wolf hybrids die off.

''In the next decade sometime, it should be more or less under control,'' said Rick Sinnott, Anchorage area biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.

Hybrids have been the subject of debate in recent years, blamed for attacks by some and praised for their intelligence by others.

State health officials have expressed concern about the large number of wolf hybrids in Alaska because there is no rabies vaccine that's proven safe and effective for them.

Sinnott said it is not known how many wolf hybrids exist in the state, but he and other biologists estimate the number could be in the thousands.

Linda Boggs, a wolf hybrid owner from Eagle River, was among those pushing for the new regulation. She said the breed can be difficult to handle and agreed they should be phased out. Still, she hoped the board would allow a grandfather clause so she can keep her pet, Sage.

Sage is not difficult to handle and has never been in trouble, Boggs said. But before Wednesday, she feared authorities might someday confiscate and euthanize her.

Karen Deatherage, a staffer at the Alaska Wildlife Alliance who helped craft the regulation, said she wanted the sale of wolf hybrid pups stopped because people sometimes dump them in the wild where they can mix with purebred wolves. Also, she added, wolf hybrids sometimes chase wildlife or bite other dogs or humans, giving wild wolves a bad name.

Deatherage said she thought the new regulation would work because it takes away the marketing ability of breeding farms that sell wolf hybrid pups.

Werner Schuster, who runs Wolf Country USA in Palmer, a company that advertises wolf hybrids for sale, said he didn't like the new regulation and may continue to use the word ''wolf'' in his marketing.

He said he sometimes calls his pups wolves and other times dogs, depending on whom he is selling them to. But he says they are all dogs.

''We sell dogs. Other people call them wolf hybrids. There's no biological way to tell the difference,'' Schuster said.

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