Whether or not wolf dogs should be legal is a pretty tense issue in most circles. While some believe they can make great pets, others feel that dog owners should stick to dogs. As with every topic, each state has its own opinion, too. That being said, below you’ll find information on wolf dogs, opinions each side holds, and detailed legal information regarding each state’s position.
Wolves and dogs are just a step apart when it comes to genetics, evolution, and breeding, but there are still enough differences for biologists to label them two distinct species. Even though they are extremely similar in look, physiology, and behavior, the differences are stark.
The “wolfdog” is a hybrid that is one part wolf (Canis lupus) and one part domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Some wolf dogs are a mix of 50% wolf and 50% dog, while others can be more than 90% dog and less than 10% wolf. Domesticated dogs exist because early humans started breeding and living with wolves over the course of thousands and thousands of years until they became the variety of breeds we know and love today.
Wolfdog hybrids are not considered a breed, as we know it, due to the infrequency of their births. Basically, unless humans bring it about, dogs are not naturally mating with wolves to create this new kind.
Wolves are wild and, characteristically, are completely detached from the pups we see doing silly things across the internet. They are shaped by evolutionary pressures to find food, stay alive, and reproduce without any assistance from humans. Dogs are the opposite in that humans manipulated their breeding to adapt them to live with us, making them dependent on us.
But because of their closeness of the two species, wolves and dogs, are “interfertile,” meaning they can breed and produce viable offspring. An example of the opposite is a mule, born from a female horse and a male donkey, which cannot reproduce.
The largest difference between dogs and wolfdogs is their development, and that can impact wolf dog offspring in many ways. Firstly, wolves and dogs mature at totally different rates making the rate of maturity in hybrids completely unpredictable. Wolves mature between one and four years of age, and over that time, they learn pack dynamics, how to contribute, and how to achieve higher ranking. These tendencies can translate into wolf dogs as the animal being being forceful, bold, obstinate, and even aggressive, which makes training much more difficult.
Also, wolves are extremely territorial. In the wild, they use packs to compete for food and land against other pack animals like coyotes. That territorial instinct can translate into establishing your home is theirs by peeing and pooping around it.
On the other hand, dogs take less than one year to hit sexual maturity, and while they might challenge their owner, it tends to be much less intense. Additionally, domestic dogs are easily trained to do their business outside.
Wolfdog hybrids can be anywhere within that spectrum because you are rolling the genetic dice, especially in first-generation hybrids. But even with later generations, there will be some kind of combination of their wild and domestic instincts.
Due to the genetic variation among a litter, it will be hard for you to predict what kind of look or behavior you’d get in your wolf dog. So, it makes sense that some people would question the safety of bringing a hybrid into their home.
It is entirely possible for someone to end up with an animal that is not nearly as domesticated, and you might have a hard time controlling it. Therefore, think carefully about the breeds you use if you are interested in owning a wolfdog. More often than not, people will combine them with German shepherds, Siberian huskies, and Malamutes, but the breed can have a dramatic impact on the outcome.
It is the opinion of WolfPaws.Org that wolfdog hybrids do not make good pets. The National Wolfdog Alliance reports that over 65% of these animals end up in rescue situations or are euthanized because the owners were overwhelmed.
Some issues owners may have include
With all animals, there are some situations where they make a good pet, but unless the owner is willing to take the time and dedicate the attention they require, things can go awry.
If you are interested in possessing and caring for a wolfdog, there are many considerations. First, they need a lot of space, and in saying that, we do not mean there needs to be a good dog park nearby, but rather that they need constant access to a lot of land. These are animals that need to run, and if that ability is limited, you risk irritating them.
Due to the nature of the possible variations in their genetics and their characteristics, issues with your wolfdog can be very dangerous. It’s not at all unusual for owners to get overwhelmed by their behavior. Sadly, potential owners don’t get familiar with the natures of either a wolf or a dog and the possible ways they intersect. Also, safety issues and issues, in general, are almost always preventable through proper preparation.
It is well known that they need to have plenty of space. These are animals that like to run, and if you confine them, you run the risk of irritating them. This could make them very dangerous. You also need to have plenty of food available. They like to eat a tremendous amount of food every day, and you need to prevent them from going hungry if you want them to stay calm and manageable. Finally, you need to have a vet who is comfortable taking care of a wolfdog. That way, you make sure the animal gets the care it needs to live a healthy life.
Lastly, be aware of the issue with rabies vaccines. Few, if any, work to protect hybrids because they simply aren’t made to work with those sets of combined genetics.
Across the United States, the status of wolfdog hybrids varies from completely banned to restricted to completely unregulated. And while there are many people who are interested in owning a wolfdog for a pet, the legality can work against you. Federally, there is no law against someone owning a wolfdog.
There are several states where people are allowed to own a wolfdog but have regulations on caging vaccines and identification. Then, there are other states where there are no laws at all. Instead, the state government has decided to leave it up to the county to decide whether someone should be allowed to own this type of pet.
If the state you are interested in is listed below, that means there is some mention or some issue with ownership within that state. Be sure to also look into the legislature in your county, town, and even village because they can completely ban ownership where the state has no such laws.
Wolfdogs are allowed in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Even if you are in one of these states, it is still important to check local laws as some counties or municipalities may make owning a wolfdog illegal.
In eleven additional states, it is legal to own a wolfdog with some restrictions on the ownership. Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas have restrictions that may be based on the specific areas where wolgdogs can be owned or the type of housing and care the wolfdog will have, for example. In all other states, it is illegal to own a wolfdog.
|New York||Not Legal|
|Rhode Island||Not Legal|