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Wolf-Dog Hybrid Rescue
by Gail Whitford
Previously published in The Wolf Hybrid Times, February, 2001
Re-edited 2003

Wolf-dog hybrid rescue is a subject we all need to think about seriously. Most people don't realize the extent of the problem.  I surely didn't before accessing the internet nearly 4 years ago. These past 4 years have been truly enlightening. A number of individual wolf-dog hybrid rescuers and rescue organizations supplied the statistics, and some other information included in this article. Many of the statistics were averaged for ease of reporting.

Why is wolf-dog hybrid rescue needed? Why is it important? The 4 rescue facilities polled reported that they get between 2 and 15 rescue calls and emails per week, per facility.  Individual rescuers(6) reported from 1 to 12 calls and emails per week, all from people who wanted to be rid of their animal for one reason or another. One rescuer reported that she once got 26 rescue calls in a week. That's a LOT of people in a year wanting to "dump" their exotic canines.

Rescue organizations reported calls and emails coming from all over the country. Individual rescuers found that calls and referrals came from the local area, and the emails from around the nation. Most rescues/rescuers got about the calls and emails from internet lists or websites, and from local referrals, such as Animal Control and dog rescue groups.

What reasons do folks give for wanting Timber placed elsewhere (often "anywhere, just get him out of here!")?

Here are the top ten:
1. Moving
2. Divorce
3. New baby, or not safe with kids
4. Containment problems/escapes
5. Illness/death of owner
6. Prey drive/not safe with other pets
7. Challenges/temperament problems
8. Other behavior problems combined with lack of knowledge
9. Neighbors/regulations prohibiting wolf-dog hybrids
10. Destruction, can't afford the animal, not their animal

What does much of that boil down to? If people told the absolute truth: "The
animal is inconvenient, and I don't have the time or motivation to deal with
these problems and/or the animal's behaviors" - a great example of the throwaway mindset of many in our society today.  If they had purchased from a responsible breeder, it would have been stressed that this is a lifetime
commitment; with a contractual requirement that the animal be returned to the breeder should the buyer be unable to keep him/her. Maybe the buyer didn't listen, or didn't believe what they were told?  Many behavior, family structure, and relocation problems could be easily solved IF the owner chose to invest the time and energy.

If the animal was purchased from an irresponsible breeder, which the majority are, the buyer may have received little to no factual information about raising the animal. It's easy to blame the owner for all the problems, but lets lay that blame where it really belongs - most often at the feet of the breeder. It takes two to tango, and thorough screening and home checks could have prevented many of the difficulties.

Many people wanting rescue help seem to believe their animals to be of much
higher content than they actually are. Of the animals needing placement, an
average of 60% (reports ranged from 10% to 95%) seem to really be wolf-doghybrids rather than mixed breed mongrels that the owners mistakenly believed to be the real thing. All respondents said that a majority of people reported the content of their wolf-dog hybrid as much higher than it actually was.

One very important aspect of rescue is to assist the owners in finding ways to remedy the problems - help them keep the animal and live happily with it. Sadly the rescuers reported only an average of 25% cared enough and received enough assistance to keep their animals. Most had already decided to give up their wolf-dog hybrid before they called or emailed.  Nothing was going to change their minds. The rescuer also needs to determine if the animal should be left in the home. Kinda like being a canine social worker.

If the owner cannot be helped to live peacefully with the animal, an adoptive home must be found. Rescue animals often come with mild to severe
behavior problems. Once a bond has been established with the first pack
(family), it is extremely difficult for the wolf-dog hybrid to transfer that bond to another person or pack. Individual rescuers reported a fairly good average on placement of those they worked with or fostered - 60% (range from 20% to 90%). One rescuer reported that only about 1 in 30 applicants for a rescue animal had acceptable facilities and knowledge to be considered as an
adoptive home.

Do rescuers try to place all of the wolf-dog hybrids no longer wanted by their owners? That would be impossible with the tremendous number of calls and emails coming in.  Choices must be made.   Many are not placeable due to
severe behavior problems. What happens to those not placed/not placeable?
Most are euthanized. Sometimes that is the most humane decision.

Rescue facilities/sanctuaries also try to help place animals they cannot take in. Some claim to have a very good record of outside placements; others refer those they cannot take to other resources.

A question that should have been asked the rescues/rescuers respondents is,
"What is the average age of wolf-dog hybrids entering the rescue system?" It was not on the poll, however.  The author's experienced guess would be that the majority enter rescue at sexual maturity, age 18 months to 4 years. That is when many wolf-dog hybrids begin to test boundaries, and seek a more alpha status within the pack.  Many, who have made it through their animal's
puppyhood, just cannot handle the more adult changes in their friend.  Those
changes can take vary from mild defiance, all the way to a full out challenge.  At that point, the remedy most often sought is rescue.

What does it take to qualify for adopting a wolf-dog hybrid?  One needs to be open to answering questions of all sorts, much like when seeking to adopt a baby.  The first placement needs to work, as problems often intensify in subsequent rehomings.  Questions will often be about your lifestyle, family structure, pets, housing (rented or owned), acreage, and containment. Some of the most important information is your prior experience with wolf-dog hybrids.  Contact rescues/rescuers for more information about adopting.

Okay, Timber is so unsocialized that he cannot be placed in a home. There are always rescue facilities/sanctuaries waiting to take him in and house him for life. Right? The unfortunate truth is that the responsible rescue facilities and sanctuaries are full, "maxed out".  Those polled had from 11 to 160 permanent residents.  There just are no openings. So what do we do with all those wolf-dog hybrids whose owners are calling/emailing at an alarming rate of 6 or 7 per facility/rescuer per week? Let's see, that would be 60 per week, X 52 weeks - an average of 3,000 calls/emails per year just to our 10 respondents. Not a very pretty picture, is it?

What is the root cause of the incredible need for rescue?  The overwhelming
response from the rescuers/rescue facilities is: greed, status seeking, and lack of education. Too many people breeding who don't know what they are doing, don't screen buyers properly, don't educate buyers, misrepresent the animals, and are after the almighty dollar.  As one rescuer stated, "There unmistakably is an overpopulation problem! There simply aren't nearly enough good homes for the staggering numbers of wolf-dog hybrids being produced." And another, "If I have to have XX animals then there are way to many unwanted wolf-dog hybrids. That's not COOL!!! So spay/neuter, place your puppies in homes with people who want pets, not with other breeders!"

Is there a solution to the problem? Here's my famous (or infamous) bathtub
analogy. The bathtub represents the world wolf-dog hybrids. The faucets
represent the breeders, and the drain represents the rescues-rescuers-sanctuaries. The faucets have been turned on full force for years. The water (new puppies) pressure has not decreased, but instead has steadily increased. The drain has become clogged, and the tub is overflowing at an alarming rate. Rescuers are trying to clear the drain, and mop up the overflow. But there is nowhere for that excess to go. The only way to remedy the situation is to turn off the faucets for a while, or slow them to a trickle from only the best, health and temperament screened lines. When that has been accomplished, it will take some time for the oversupply of wolf-dog hybrids to level off. The rescues cannot solve this by themselves.

Are all rescues/rescue facilities created equal? In my opinion they are not. If a rescue/rescuer/sanctuary breeds, they might better be considered a breeder who does some rescue. To my knowledge, none of the rescue facilities polled for this article breed their animals. Another sticky point - do the animals produced by breeding at a rescue fall under the umbrella of rescued animals? Should donations from the public be used to house and feed breeding animals, their offspring, and their caretakers? Should donations be used for the rescue owner's personal animals? When making donations to any group, ask questions. Non-profits are required to provide certain information to anyone who asks. Most are happy to answer any questions you may have.

So, when you are making that decision to breed Tundra and Kodiak, think long
and hard about what you will be adding to the equation.   Are Tundra and
Kodiak the very best animals available? Are they health screened (OFA,
PennHip, CERF, etc)? Do they have impeccable temperaments? Will they add
something positive to the wolf-dog hybrid gene pool that no other animals
could?  If you can't answer yes to all of the above and much more, why
breed? If you are not a part of the solution, you ARE a part of the problem.


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