By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues |

Citing opposition to wolfdog ownership and the paucity of scientific information about the efficacy of canine rabies vaccination in wolves and wolfdogs, the US Department of Agriculture has withdrawn a proposal to define dogs as “all members of the species Canis familiaris, Canis lupus, or any wolf-dog cross” and thereby jeopardized ownership of canids of mixed wolf and dog heritage.

The agency wrote the proposed rule after wolfdog owners presented evidence that more than 600 wolves and wolfdog crosses were vaccinated with canine rabies vaccine without adverse effects. Some opponents challenged the rule on the grounds that immunogenicity studies have not been done in wolves and wolfdogs, but the bulk of resistance to the rule change came from individuals and organizations hostile to ownership of these animals.

Nearly 80 comments were received during the 60-day period that ended in November 1999. According to the Federal Register entry of April 18, comments came from “an animal welfare organization, animal rescue organizations, veterinary care facilities, a veterinary biologics manufacturer, veterinary associations, universities, a state agency, wolf and lupine organizations, a wildlife foundation, and private citizens. ... Most of the commenters who were opposed to the proposed rule were concerned that the inclusion of wolves and dog-wolf crosses in the definition of dog would validate or encourage the ownership of wolves and dog-wolf crosses, and that such ownership could pose a risk to humans due to the unpredictable behavior of such animals.”


The wolfdog is a controversial pet, and the lack of an approved rabies vaccine has often been cited as reason enough to restrict or ban the animals in many communities. The Humane Society of the US and other groups also allege that wolf-dog crosses are unpredictable and dangerous and therefore pose a threat to the community. HSUS and the Michigan Humane Society backed a wolfdog ban in Michigan even though there is no way to differentiate between a wolfdog and a wolfie-looking northern breed or crossbreed. Similar laws have targeted Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and other northern breeds and mixes. The Michigan bill is being challenged in court, but so far the courts have refused to halt enforcement of the law pending the outcome of the case.

Wolfdog owners contend that their pets are dogs and are no more unpredictable than other dogs. Echoing the arguments of owners of other banned or restricted breeds and mixes, they argue that those who responsibly own, breed, socialize, care for, and train their wolfdogs should be allowed to acquire and keep them as pets.

Meanwhile, the lack of approved rabies vaccine and the stigma attached to wolf-dog ownership leads to speculation that some owners will fail to take their pet to a veterinary clinic for regular checkups and that more communities will ban or restrict the animals out of fear.

About The Author

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Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

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