Wolf hybrids a concern

Wolf hybrids were the issue last week when a public hearing was held by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Wolf hybrids are the result of breeding wild wolves with domestic dogs. A few people in New Hampshire keep them as pets.

Deborah Turcott, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society for the past three years, was the first person to testify. As she spoke of the wolf hybrid escapes from a facility in Lempster in 2006, I was reminded of the fear and uncertainty of my neighbors as it seemed as if there was one escape after another. Ms. Turcott said with no ban or tight regulation on wolf hybrids, New Hampshire is open to being a “dumping ground” for these animals.

There was not much citizens could do except worry about how quickly escaped animals would be recaptured. The problem ended abruptly for Lempster when the couple who owned the wolf hybrids left town. But, the problem continued as the couple moved to a mountaintop in Alexandria with their many animals and continued to operate.

The police chiefs of Danbury and Alexandria testified about what happened when the owners abandoned their dogs in 2013. The Alexandria chief explained how his department led an effort around the clock for 16 days to deal with the animals. The Bridgewater Elementary School was locked down for three weeks with children kept indoors for fear of loose wolf hybrids.

Calling the animals “ vicious,” the police chief of Danbury said packs of wolf hybrids pose a serious risk to public safety. He noted that in Alexandria the wolf hybrids were fed road kill thrown over their fences. Some of them weighed up to 145 pounds.

The last witness was the Executive Director of the Fish and Game Department, Glenn Normandeau. While the department has not taken a formal position on the legislation, he feels wolf hybrids should be banned in New Hampshire. He considers them “penned wild animals” and fears they will get loose and his department does not have the resources to deal with them. Plus, he said we could be creating conflicts with federal statutes dealing with endangered species if we take no action. In summary, Normandeau said there is more than public safety that is involved with wolf hybrids.

SB 407 defines “common household pet” as distinct from wolf hybrids and places regulatory responsibility with the Fish and Game Department. When the five member committee met the day after the public hearing, Chairman Russell Prescott (Kingston) took an informal poll of the members. All five were interested in banning wolf hybrids, as is the case with other states, giving enough time for those owning wolf hybrids as pets to let them live out their days.

What happened last week in the Energy Committee is evidence of the power of the public hearing. Those testifying had personal experience and factual information about what has happened, however isolated, in New Hampshire in the last decade.

Bob Odell, a Republican, is the New Hampshire senator representing Antrim, Bennington and Francestown, among other towns.

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