First, they were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Then, the two wolf-hybrid dogs were found and nursed back to health. Now, because of a state law, their lives are threatened again.
Pawnee and Kiowa have thrived under the care of their rescuer, Luanne Price, a self-described animal lover and dog expert.
Price found the dogs abandoned by their previous owners, who bred the dogs, near her Harlem home on County Line Road. Kiowa, the 10-year-old female, had been locked in a pen and nearly starved to death, but Pawnee, the 11-year-old male, kept her alive by hunting for food in the nearby woods.
After taking them in, Price immediately recognized the two as wolf hybrids, wolves bred with domesticated dogs. She informed the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which tracks the animals. Expecting to be able to adopt them, Price was informed by the DNR that state law requires the animals be euthanized.
"I was devastated," Price said. "These are beautiful creatures that have a right to live. Our only hope is to find a licensed professional to take them in from another state."
The dogs were slated to be put to death Wednesday, but Price convinced DNR officials to give her time to find someone who can legally take Pawnee and Kiowa in. DNR has given Price until Jan. 15 to find new accommodations for the animals.
So far, animals groups from Naples, Fla., and as far away as Connecticut are helping in the search for a new home.
"Everyone has the Little Red Riding Hood image of wolves as being ferocious," Price said. "That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, in the wild, they are very shy and timid animals.
"Wolf hybrids, like wolves, are pack animals. They take care of their own, but they're also domesticated and see the people that take care of them as part of their pack."
That pack mentality, however, is part of the reason the state considers wolf hybrids as a danger and has outlawed having them as pets.
"Wolf hybrids display a certain behavior, which is being extremely loyal to a certain person or space," said Scott Frazier, a wildlife biologist with Georgia DNR's special permit unit that monitors exotic animals in the state. "It makes them prone to these attacks where they sense that someone has violated the person they are attached to or their personal space."
Price called breeders who continue mating the wolf hybrids irresponsible and cruel since the dogs may be killed if discovered.
She said she has known Pawnee and Kiowa since they were puppies. They belonged to a former neighbor, and Price was reluctant to say why the people moved away and abandoned the animals.
She did stress that it wasn't the wolf dogs' fault, calling them victims of their owners' circumstances.
"When I found them, Kiowa was locked in a cage with nothing but a rusty hubcap full of water," Price said. "She had nearly starved to death.
"Pawnee was free, but was having to live in the wild. He killed a deer and dragged it back to Kiowa's cage so she could eat. She was having to tear off pieces of meat through her cage."
After rescuing the dogs from certain death, Price said she is dumbfounded that she may now be forced to put them down.
Pawnee and Kiowa may die because of a state law passed in 1994 banning the ownership of wolf hybrids. People who already owned the dogs were grandfathered in and allowed to keep them. Now that Pawnee's and Kiowa's owners have abandoned them, it is illegal for someone in Georgia to claim them.
"The code essentially says that any regulated animal may only be possessed for commercial purposes under certain circumstance," Frazier said. "In effect, what it says is no private ownership."
Wolf-hybrid ownership also is illegal in South Carolina, Alabama and in certain counties in Florida, Price said.
"It is a law based in ignorance," she said. "Someone heard the term 'wolf' and reacted based on frightening stories they heard as a child and had them outlawed.
"Anyone who has spent time with these animals know them to be gentle and sweet. My neighbor's 5-year-old daughter has been over here to play with them. I've played with them. They don't deserve to die."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.