A family in Aurora will have to wait a little while longer to find out whether they’ll get their dog back.
Capone has been living with the Abbato family ever since they took him home from the Adams County Animal Shelter about a decade ago.
Last month, what the family thought was a German shepherd lab mix jumped the fence and ran away. Tracy Abbato was 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. Michael Bryant with the Aurora Animal Shelter said officers suspected Capone could be a hybrid based on “experience and behavior.”
They are holding the dog until they conduct a DNA test, which should be completed in two weeks.
There was a hearing on this case in municipal court Wednesday afternoon. It was continued until next week.
The Abbato family’s lawyer says the city ordinance prohibiting foxes, wolves, coyotes or other species of canines other than dogs is too vague.
“The statute doesn’t set forth what constitutes a hybrid animal in any specificity,” attorney Aaron Acker said. “We’ve got experts who are going to say that a lot of dogs could have 2 percent wolf in them, what constitutes an actual wolf? They’re going to start pricking my beagle and finding whether it’s a hybrid animal that should be terminated.”
9NEWS asked the city of Aurora what constitutes a wolf, and if a dog that’s been living with a family for 10 years as a dog could be something more.
So far, the city hasn’t been able to answer that question.
In addition to the part-wolf question, the Abbatos are charged with keeping an aggressive animal and an animal running at large.
The city says the dog wasn’t registered and didn’t have a rabies vaccine.
The owners pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and say the dog just didn’t have any tags on him at the time.
The attorney for the Abbato family says they want to do their own testing to determine if the pet they’ve had for 10 years is in any way wolf.
“Sometimes you get selective enforcement,” Acker said. “I can’t comment as to why they’re doing that. I guess they have their reasons. Maybe a test case, I’m not aware of any other case in the city of Aurora that has addressed this specific issue.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting one, if it gets to the point that we have to address the Constitutional issues of it. There is some argument that the bond between humans and their companions is something that’s Constitutionally-protected. I think that’s something the city needs to take seriously.”
The next municipal court hearing on this case is next Wednesday.
For now, Capone is in the shelter. The family can see their dog for three minutes if they want, but can’t touch him. Every day Capone’s there, they pay $15.
In Denver, there’s an ordinance that restricts keeping wild or dangerous animals, however, that ordinance does not specify wolf-hybrids.
It was put in the books out of concern for public health and safety.