This Jan. 1, 2012 photo shows center co-founder, Mathew Sinmans, with two of of 29 rescued wolf dogs at The Lockwood Animal Rescue Center in Lockwood, Calif. It's been three months since this California animal rescue center retrieved 29 wolf-dogs from an Alaska tourist attraction that had fought the state over owning, breeding and selling the wolf-hybrids. Chains were so deeply embedded in the necks of two of the animals that they had to be surgically removed.The task of taming the wolf-dogs has been given to a couple of U.S. military veterans who say they can relate to the stress of trying to transition to a normal life. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

AURORA | Gray wolves are returning to roam the Rockies, and wolf-hybrids will soon be allowed to call Aurora home, as the city prepares to do away with a ban on the crossbreed canines.

A package of changes to the city’s animal code made it out of an Aurora City Council study session on Feb. 7 with little fanfare and no discussion, and council members voted on first reading to approve the changes Feb. 14. One of the proposed changes would be to remove wolf-hybrids from a list of banned animals that includes foxes, coyotes and wolves.

Wolf-hybrids, also known as wolfdogs, are the offspring of wolves and domestic dogs. While breeding between the two species is rare in the wild — because wolves tend to defend their territory against other canines — wolf-hybrids are bred in captivity as pets, guard animals and working dogs.

City spokesman Michael Brannen said the move to get rid of the ban follows last year’s decision to lift the local ban on pit bulls, which didn’t affect wolf-hybrids but meant Aurora Animal Services no longer tests dog DNA.

“Rather than engage in the cumbersome process of acquiring such a test and relying solely on a dog’s breed to gauge its risk to public safety, Animal Services believes observing the dog’s behavior and actions is a better measurement,” Brannen wrote in an email.

Wolf-hybrids may be more likely than domestic dogs to act instinctively, for example by showing aggression toward humans. That behavior has fueled controversy over whether wolf-hybrids are tame enough to be kept as pets, a practice opposed by both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Brannen said Aurora residents have been barred from owning wolves since 1979, when the city’s first animal ordinance was implemented.

The city’s Animal Services Department alleges Capone, shown here, is a wolf-hybrid. The canine’s owners assert the dog is a shepherd-mix. Photo provided courtesy of Tracy Abbato.
The city’s Animal Services Department alleges Capone, shown here, is a wolf-hybrid. The canine’s owners assert the dog is a shepherd-mix. Photo provided courtesy of Tracy Abbato.

That ban was used at least once to prosecute the owners of a suspected wolf-hybrid. Capone, a German Shepherd-Labrador mix, was impounded for nearly a month in 2017 after sneaking into a neighbor’s yard. The case drew statewide attention when city staffers questioned the dog’s lupine lineage, only to have their concerns debunked by a DNA test.

Brannen said just the one DNA test had been performed on a suspected wolf-hybrid since 2015. He added animal protection officers and the city’s staff veterinarian have used “visual IDs of wolf characteristics” to assess whether a dog is a possible hybrid, paying special attention to the animal’s teeth, legs, snout and behavior toward strangers.

Language specifically prohibiting the ownership of wolf-hybrids was added to the city code in November 2020 at the same time as the new dangerous dog ordinance, which otherwise focused on regulating the behavior of dogs regardless of their breed.

At the time, Anthony Youngblood, manager of the city’s Animal Services Division, said the rabies vaccine used for domestic dogs isn’t effective in the presence of wolf DNA. Brannen said Tuesday that the city still “abides by the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) stance that the rabies vaccine is not approved for use in wolf-hybrids.”

The language of the wolf-hybrid ban was further refined when the pit bull ban was lifted in 2021. The City Council’s decision to abolish the pit bull ban was controversial, in part because voters opted to keep the ban in place in 2014, around nine years after the council passed it into law.

Councilmember Francoise Bergan speculated that the lack of furor so far about wolf-dogs being allowed in the city could have to do with the fact that the city’s electorate has never weighed in.

“This never went to voters,” she said. “We do have the authority to make the change. I think it got confusing before because Council had let it go to the voters. … A few of us were basically saying it should go back to the voters again.”

“I haven’t heard anything either way on this,” said councilmember Alison Coombs, who voted last year to get rid of the pit bull ban. She said she still supports getting rid of breed bans, including the ban on wolf-hybrids.

“If the problem is dangerous behavior, that’s what needs to be addressed … and that was addressed in what we passed,” Coombs said.

Aurora’s wolf-hybrid ban is relatively unique within the metro area. While Denver’s municipal code prohibits owning “wild or dangerous animals,” there is no breed ban targeting wolf-hybrids specifically. Representatives of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties said wolf-hybrids aren’t banned in their jurisdictions either.

Only the city and county of Broomfield reported an ordinance banning ownership of “any hybrid or breed mix between wild animals and domestic animals,” which would include wolf-hybrids.

The council voted unanimously to lift the ban Feb. 14. Other parts of the package would clarify the distinction between aggressive and potentially dangerous dogs and change policies for when a dog is seized by the court so that the dog’s owner would not have input on what happens with it.

7 replies on “Aurora gives first approval to lift ban on wolf-hybrids”

  1. I worry the inexperienced and ill-equipped will be the ones who exercise this new option to predictably tragic outcomes.

    How does one defend themselves from a wolf attack? Perhaps Council Members will have some suggestions.

    1. That’s a misnomer. They’re hybrids, so they’ve bred the attack out of them, right? I thought you only needed to outrun a council member to stave off an attack. But seriously, I think you may be thinking the worst of it without giving it a chance to work. I think you stand a much better chance of being bitten by a much smaller dog, and how many times do you think you’ll cross paths with a hybrid?

      1. First of all wolfdogs are not hybrids they’re from the same species . An also they’re bred wolf dog to wolf dog not wolf to dog . I have 6 of them an they pose no more threat to people than any other dog . It’s all in their raising . As far as the rabies vaccine goes , they’ve never proved they are not effective on a wolf dog .

    2. Publius, if you are quick and strong enough you get your arm or arms tightly around their neck, then start twirling them around in an attempt to break their neck by using their own body weight.

      Probably won’t work as they seem to be very quick and then they will just chew on your throat, because they are pissed, then you die. Good news, is they probably won’t eat you, unless they are very hungry. Bad news is that you are still dead.


    As a home rule city, what exactly do we think this theory will guarantee or is it all smoke? What does that vote we register really mean? We vote, but despite all that, some on this council in the past had decided our votes didn’t really seem to matter, they knew so much more. Should we be shocked with what we have seen from city hall? Hopefully, people’s memories retain some history.

  3. I did my best to tell Alison Hiltz and the prior Council not to eliminate the ban on pit bulls as they are extremely dangerous, especially since the voting public voted to eliminate pit bulls 2-1 in a previous election. I’d bet on a trained fighter pit bull against a wolf any day of the week. And, I was with a group that trained pit bulls to fight in Viet Nam.

    Let the poor wolfs in if you let in pit bulls.

  4. Really bad idea. When I was a kid someone’s wolf hybrid dog got into our backyard and was trying to bite people. It ended up having to be shot down. It’s totally unnecessary

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