AURORA - A family in Aurora will be back in court Wednesday after animal control said the German shepherd lab mix they've owned for 10 years may in fact be a dog-wolf hybrid.
It's illegal to own any wild animal hybrid in the city of Aurora, according to Aurora Animal Control.
Capone has been living with the Abbato family in Aurora ever since he was taken home from the Adams County Animal Shelter about a decade ago.
Last month, he jumped the fence and ran away.
Tracy Abbato thought she'd be relieved when she heard Aurora Animal Control picked him up. She was horrified when she heard their response.
City officials told her they couldn't give the dog back because they suspected it was a wolf-hybrid.
"They said he has characteristics of a wolf," Abbato said, "I asked what those characteristics were. They didn't give me any explanation other than he was aggressive."
Michael Bryant, senior public information officer with the Aurora Animal Shelter, said officers suspected Capone could be a hybrid based on "experience and behavior."
The shelter is holding on to Capone until they find out whether he's a wolf hybrid from a DNA test, which should be completed two weeks from now. Tracy feels like her kids are being punished.
"They sleep with the dog at night and it's hard watching my kids because they're taking it rough," Abbato said.
Bryant says a judge will hear arguments if the animal should be returned to its owners or remain at the shelter for safety reasons.
If the judge determines the animal should be surrendered to the Aurora Animal Services based on the case as a whole, which includes the charge of aggressive behavior and the possibility the dog maybe part wolf, Animal Services will determine what to do with the dog, including finding a sanctuary to send it to or another appropriate home, according to Bryant.
These DNA tests are relatively recent. Jim Siedlecki, the spokesman for Adams County, told 9NEWS that the DNA testing was not common practice in animal shelters 10 years ago (when the dog was adopted) because of the expense.
“Now we do that in cases where breed is in question,” Siedlecki said.
As far as the state of Colorado is concerned, as long as a dog is at least 1% domesticated, it's legal. However, local laws can override that, including Aurora's law.
Denver's local law, for example, is different than Aurora's.
“While Denver does have an ordinance that restricts keeping wild or dangerous animals, it does not specify wolf hybrids dogs," Denver Environmental Health said in an emailed statement to 9NEWS. "Our primary consideration on whether or not a dog would be returned to an owner would be if the dog presented a public health and safety risk, regardless of the breed.”
Aurora, Colorado City Hall released the following statement on Facebook Wednesday morning:
"We want to thank everyone for the discussion surrounding the current case involving Aurora Animal Services. Because this is an ongoing legal case, we are unable to respond specifically to some of your comments, but please know that we are reviewing and compiling all of the comments we receive. We hope there will be an amicable resolution to this situation. Thank you."
Officials say the Abbatos are facing several charges for Capone including: having an aggressive animal; having a dog run at large; and keeping an exotic, wild, or dangerous animal.
The Abbatos say they have another court hearing Wednesday to answer to the charges.
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