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It’s Legal to Own Wolf Hybrid in Alabama, Where Infant Was Fatally Mauled

Authorities say a wolf hybrid kept as a pet attacked and killed an infant in Alabama last week

<p>Katie Forbis</p> A wolfdog

Katie Forbis

A wolfdog

An infant in Alabama was killed after being attack by a wolf hybrid that the baby’s family kept as a pet — an animal that is legal to own in the state, according to authorities.

The deadly incident occurred Thursday in Shelby County. The infant was taken to the hospital and succumbed to their injuries sustained during the attack.

FOX 6 reported that Chelsea, Ala., Mayor Tony Picklesimer said owning a wolf hybrid is not illegal in the city or the state.

Katie Forbis, the marketing manager at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, who has been working with wolves and wolfdogs since 2013, tells PEOPLE she believes that for the most part, people shouldn’t own dogs that have wolf DNA, unless they understand wolfdogs require more care than regular dogs and are willing to sacrifice their normal lives.

“For me personally, I'm of the opinion that 99.99999 percent of people should not have them,” Forbis says. “But there really are some fantastic owners out there who do a great job.”

Related: Infant Dies After Being Attacked by Wolf Hybrid Kept as Pet by Family

While she says wolfdogs are not necessarily dangerous, Forbis notes they can be unpredictable and require a lot more dedication from owners.

Forbis also pointed out the possibility that the dog in Alabama might not have been a wolf hybrid. Authorities have not yet released DNA results or photos of the dog, and Forbis says breeders will often mislead buyers who are seeking a wolf mix, adding that some owners who come to the sanctuary believing they have a wolfdog actually don’t.

“Over the last few years we've actually realized that only 10 to 15 percent of people that think they have a wolfdog actually have one,” Forbis says. “And fewer than 10 percent of those people have wolfdogs with significant content.”

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A wolfdog can mean different things. A low-content mix contains primarily dog DNA, meaning it’s mostly a domestic dog. A mid-content ranges from 50 to 84 percent, Forbis says, while anything above that is considered high-content and typically are “indistinguishable” from a wolf.

While wolves are illegal to own, wolfdogs are explicitly permitted in multiple states, while some states do not specifically refer to them in legislation. In Alabama, where the attack occurred, they are not prohibited.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office says the wolf hybrid was euthanized by a veterinarian and taken to the Alabama State Diagnostics Laboratory in Auburn for further investigation.

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