Charges against couple with wolf hybrids expected to be dropped

Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

A Kasilof couple who raises and shows hybrid wolves is awaiting final word on dismissal of criminal charges alleging 21 counts of unlawful possession of a wolf hybrid that is not on a national registry.

Jeanie Pierce was arraigned Jan. 9 on the charges, and she and her husband, George, who advertise their animal-viewing business as "Wolves of Alaska," decided to fight a relatively new Alaska law prohibiting people from advertising for sale a wolf hybrid or any animal represented to be a wolf or part wolf by any name or description.

"Our attorney said all charges were dismissed because of lack of evidence," George Pierce said last week.

Kenai District Court Magistrate David S. Landry, however, said the court is awaiting a dismissal notice from the state.

Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell said he would file the dismissal after he receives paperwork from the Pierces showing they are in compliance with all laws regarding their animals.

Jeanie Pierce's attorney, Joe Ray Skrha, said Monday he would have her sign the necessary affidavit and deliver it to McConnell Monday evening or today.

The affidavit includes receipts for services from the Kenai Veterinary Hospital showing two wolf hybrids, Denali and Moondancer, were spayed and had "HomeAgain Microchips" implanted.

To legally possess hybrid wolves in Alaska, people must have owned them prior to Jan. 23, 2002, and owners are required to register the animals by implanting a microchip and spay and neuter them.

"We spayed the two wolf hybrids," George Pierce said. "The others are dogs. They're not wolf hybrids.

"We can prove the lineage of our dogs. They're malamutes, Greenland huskies and Mackenzie Rivers," he said.

"Initially (the state) wanted every dog chipped," Skrha said.

"I persuaded them of their error. That would have included everything they had out there, even a poodle and a dachshund," he said.

At a glance, the Pierces' large-breed dogs look like wolves and are advertised as such to bring in tourists wanting to see wolves as part of their Alaska vacation adventure.

The couple charges visitors $5 to tour Wolves of Alaska between Memorial Day and Labor Day, telling their guests about the animals and allowing people to pet them.

The state has several reasons for wanting to eliminate hybrid wolves, including the possible spread of dog problems such as lice and Parvo virus to wild wolf packs and the possibility that eventually only feral hybrid wolves would exist in the wild, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Also, no proof exists that rabies vaccine works in hybrid wolves.

The Alaska Board of Game last year admitted the lack of a simple genetic test to distinguish hybrid wolves and adopted regulations making it illegal to advertise for sale a wolf hybrid or any animal represented to be a wolf or part wolf by any name or description.

Possession of wolves or wolf hybrids without a permit and the sale of such animals has been illegal for years. The ban on advertising was new.

In essence, the law said if people advertise the animal as a wolf hybrid, it is a wolf hybrid.

"That's nonsense," George Pierce said.

"Genetically all wolves are canines.

"We have dogs," he said.

"They also say we're selling our dogs. We haven't sold any animals in over four years," Pierce said.

He also said the couple plans to continue advertising its business as Wolves of Alaska.

Asked if he felt the Pierces should continue advertising as such, Skrha said it is OK because they are not advertising the animals for sale.

He also said the Alaska law involves freedom of speech issues and, if the state attempts to enforce the advertising ban, the state would be taking away someone's business.

"It's too much of a government taking and there's no rationale for it," Skrha said.

He also said his client has complied with the law.

"She has chipped and identified her animals," he said.



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