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Dr. Stephanie Porter's letter to Colorado Senators.
Below is a letter written by Colorado resident, Dr. Stephanie Porter, to the all the Senators on Colorado's Agricultural Committee. Please follow Dr. Porter's example and write in and express your own opinions or experiences to the addresses provided for you (click here).
I am writing to you with some information that is vital to Senate Bill 167. I have a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and have been involved in the wolf hybrid community for several years. Though I do not own a wolf hybrid, I know many owners both here in Colorado and across the country. I also have a wealth of information about wolf hybrids, including information that needs to be corrected in SB167. I hope you will take a few minutes to review my points below.
1. The bill contains inaccurate information about the number of people documented to be killed by wolf hybrids every year. The following numbers come from peer-reviewed scientific journals and summarize all documented dog-related fatalities. You can see from the numbers that wolf hybrids cause a small fraction of dog-related fatalities in the United States:
|Breeds involved in dog bite-related fatalities 1979-1994:|
per year (avg.)
|Pit Bull and crosses|
|Rottweiler and crosses|
|Shepherd and crosses|
|Husky and crosses|
|Malamute and crosses|
|Chow and crosses|
These numbers were compiled from the following scientific references summarizing work done at the Centers for Disease Control:
J. J. Sacks, R. W. Sattin and S. E. Bonzo Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979through 1988, JAMA (1989) 262:1489-1492
Cliff Mortimer has gone further with these numbers, and done calculations that take into account the estimated numbers of individual animals per breed. These calculations show that wolf hybrids kill FEWER people than most of the dog breeds shown above. I will be happy to forward these calculations to the committee as well.
2. My understanding is that the SB167 was introduced due to the tragic incident in Colorado Springs where a woman was killed by two dogs reported to be wolf hybrids. In a phone conversation with Darlene Kobobel I was informed that the county autopsy found that these dogs had not been fed for TWO WEEKS. In addition the owners had been cited multiple times for violations, including allowing the dogs to run free and chase livestock. The owners were ordered to remove the animals from the county which they did not do. Why did the county allow this situation to escalate into a death? This was not a wolf hybrid problem, it was a problem with irresponsible ownership. There is no wolf hybrid problem in Colorado. Probably thousands of people are successfully keeping wolf hybrids as companion animals. Wolf Canyon Mushers in Eagle, Colorado takes people on sleddog rides. All of the sleddogs are wolf hybrids and they are all friendly, obedient, and loved by the customers.
3. Regulating wolf hybrids brings a nightmare of legal issues. The number one issue is that wolves and dogs are the same species. Dogs have been reclassified by the International Society of Mammologists as a subspecies of wolf, so are now called Canis lupus familiaris. As a result, no scientific inquiry has been able to find reliable DNA markers that can distinguish a wolf from a dog, particularly if the dog is one not far in time from its wolf ancestry, such as a malamute or german shepherd. Since there is no independent test that can tell a wolf hybrid from a dog, how can any legislation be enforced? I have spoken with Dr. Ray Pierotti at Kansas State University, who is an expert in wolf and dog genetics. He thinks there will never be reliable genetic markers that can be used to legally detect a wolf hybrid as distinguished from a northern breed dog. Thus, enforcement of wolf hybrid legislation would depend on highly subjective opinion. All identifications made by the state or a county will be subject to court challenge. In some states wolf hybrid bans have been declared unconstitutional based on the inability to distinguish them from northern breed dogs. How can the state regulate something they can't identify?
4. If a permit system is instituted in the state of Colorado, most breeders and owners will suddenly have "husky mixes" instead of "wolf hybrids". If there is a ban it will fail to protect people for the following reasons:
5. What is an alternative to breed-specific legislation?
A much more rational approach to decreasing public health hazard due to dog attacks in Colorado is the institution of a dangerous dog law that is non-breed specific. Since scientific evidence shows that many breeds of dog have a higher likelihood of killing than wolf hybrids (see above information on dog attacks), the problem is a GENERAL problem of canine attacks, not specific to wolf hybrids. It makes no sense to legislate against specific types of dogs. In fact a recent study done in England found that making three breeds of dogs illegal (Pit Bulls, Rottwielers, and Dobermans) did NOT decrease the number or severity of dog bites that occurred (Injury 1996 Vol. 27:89-91). A dangerous dog act that is not breed specific would put the blame squarely on those who deserve it, the irresponsible owners who do not train or socialize their dogs, or who even encourage aggression in their dogs. In this way, responsible people that have well trained, well socialized wolf hybrids as companion animals would not be punished for the acts of irresponsible owners. Besides a dangerous dog act, education is the most important way to prevent tragedies like the Colorado Springs incident. If people involved in the wolf hybrid community were asked to provide educational lectures in their counties about the responsibilities of wolf hybrid ownership, many people would be prevented from buying a hybrid inappropriately. A combination of public education about wolf hybrids plus a non-breed specific dangerous dog act that would take dogs out of the hands of people who are creating killer canines, would greatly improve the safety of all Colorado residents.
I apologize for the length of this letter, but I felt that these points should all be addressed by the Senate Committee if public health in Colorado is really the issue. I have a large amount of documentation about the above issues that I could not include for the sake of brevity, but would be happy to provide to the Senate Committee. If SB167 is indeed passed, I would request that the public be informed of the reasoning behind the vote. In addition, I request to be on the advisory committee. I am well educated in the issues and I feel that the committee could profit from having someone with scientific training on it. Further, I can suggest several other people for membership on the committee who are well versed in the issues presented above.
Thank you very much for your time,
Dr. Stephanie Porter
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