A 5-year-old Lincoln Park boy was found dead after allegedly being mauled in his bedroom overnight by what most media outlets are calling a wolf-hybrid mix.
(read the Associated Press' version of the story)
I think the local media are jumping the gun on calling this dog a wolf-hybrid mix simply because the story would be more interesting if that was really the case. This makes me ashamed for others in my profession who are distorting a story for the sake of sensationalism.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting the family had two dogs, a 35-pound black and white Labrador mix and a 90-pound husky and German shepherd mix.
Neighbors have speculated that the husky-shepherd mix might be a wolf hybrid.
I am not ridiculing the Free Press’ reporting — their headline is “Lincoln Park boy may have been killed by dog” and they clearly state the dog breeds that have been identified. Thank you, ethical journalists.
Now, I want to make a few points:
1) Owners of huskies, German shepherds, akitas and malamutes have as great a responsibility on their hands as do the owners of the most often maligned breeds — pit bulls and rottweilers. Huskies, akitas and malamutes all share a high prey drive. Huskies and malamutes need daily vigorous exercise. As guard dogs, German shepherds also require an experienced owner. Just because these breeds are pretty or handsome and some, like huskies, have a really good reputation from all those cartoons they’ve been featured in, doesn’t mean they’re suddenly comparable to owning a lab. Read an earlier blog about an akita mauling that happened this year.
2) Don’t own a wolf-hybrid unless you have special qualifications, a special habitat and are licensed and approved to own the animal by whatever local, state or federal laws may apply. Regular readers of this blog may recall recent posts about the co-evolution of humans and dogs and how dogs have been physically and behaviorally different from wolves for about 10,000 years. So, don’t look at your dog and assume that if you brought a wolf puppy or a wolf-hybrid puppy into your home that the puppy would grow up to be just like your dog. Wolves are wild animals. They are starkly different from dogs — more independent and aloof with a prey drive that isn’t comparable to what you’d find in any dog breed. Unless you own a wildlife preserve and are qualified to manage wild animals, you should not own a wolf or wolf hybrid.
3) To all you owners of huskies, malamutes and even akitas, how many times have you been told how much your dog resembles a wolf? Probably a lot, I’d guess. These dogs, particularly malamutes, do closely resemble wolves. My assumption, then, is that the neighbors of this dog did what so many people do when they see a large husky mix — they remarked on how much the dog looked like a wolf. And that’s how this story got its roots in sensationalism.
Sadly, a 5-year-old boy is dead. I wonder how it is that this mauling happened overnight in the boy’s bedroom and the parents never heard a thing — no growling or snarling, no screams for help? No noisy commotion?
The death is being treated as a homicide and both dogs are being held at a shelter. No charges have been filed in the case.
Once again, I encourage all dog owners to not leave their children unsupervised around dogs. Small, precautionary practices can prevent huge amounts of grief.