I've bolded items for those that just want to skim through. Basically, this article was written about potential wolf dogs being seized in PA, and a PGC officer saying that they are outright illegal to own in PA which they are not. Since the author did not fact-check this I wanted to let them know so they could possibly amend the article and/or follow up with something explaining the actual law. I tried to be as civil as possible and not get off track with exotic laws, rights, welfare, and all that jazz. Just clearing up the facts.
Content warning: ill-informed PGC officer quoted below.
"Eleven canines, including three believed to be wolf-dog hybrids that are illegal to be kept as pets in Pennsylvania, were removed from the home of a Bentleyville man Wednesday morning by humane officers and State Game Commission conservation officers.
The ribs, vertebrae and hip bones of several of the animals were visible, and the claws of some were curling.
Fredrick Frameli of 160 Spring St. had to remain outside his ranch-style house while law enforcement officers were executing a search warrant. Once he was permitted to go back inside, he closed a side door that was kept open in an attempt to air the main floor, declining to answer a reporter’s shouted question. The white-haired Frameli was clad in a black T-shirt prominently bearing a picture of
Three wolf-dogs, including two pups that recently came to the home, were purchased from a breeder near Cincinnati, Ohio, where they are legal, said Richard Joyce, state Game Commission wildlife conservation officer. The breeder agreed to take them back.
Joyce described the condition of many of the animals as “emaciated.”
“There was no readily available water for any of the animals at all where they were caged up,” he said. “They did not have any food out. There are bags of food in the house.”
The dogs ranged in age from about 13 weeks to 7 years. The majority were caged in the basement and four were upstairs, where a lankier pup and a small black puppy were sharing one cage.
Urns containing cremated remains of 10 pets were inside the home, which Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer Heather Flanegan said reeked of urine.
While domestic dogs descended thousands of years ago from wolves, Joyce said of wolf-dog hybrids, “It generally never works out.” He encountered one kept as a pet in North Franklin Township 13 to 14 years ago. “It was fine until it was running around with a Yorkie hanging out of its mouth,” he said. “When they reach sexual maturity, they want to be the alpha dog,” and the hybrids will dominate whoever or whatever stands in their way.
The animals were being kept Wednesday afternoon at Washington Area Humane Society in Eighty Four, said Kelly Proudfit, executive director, where all were being evaluated by a veterinarian. She called their condition “skinny and dehydrated.” Proudfit expects those without wolf bloodlines to eventually be placed in foster homes and be made available for adoption."
So, I wrote a lengthy email to the author explaining the inaccuracies in their article (mostly just that the PGC officer was wrong about the laws). Below is that email.
I read your article on the dogs rescued from the place in Bentleyville. I’m glad they’re safe now!
However, I wanted to clarify something in your article: “Eleven canines, including three believed to be wolf-dog hybrids that are illegal to be kept as pets in Pennsylvania, were removed from the home of a Bentleyville man Wednesday morning by humane officers and State Game Commission conservation officers.”
Wolves and wolf hybrids are legal to own in PA, with a state-issued permit. Title 34 of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania deals with Game and Wildlife Code: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/leg ... HTM&ttl=34
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/leg ... &subsctn=0
§ 2961. Definitions.
"Exotic wildlife." The phrase includes, but is not limited to, all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves and any crossbreed of these animals which have similar characteristics in appearance or features. The definition is applicable whether or not the birds or animals were bred or reared in captivity or imported from another state or nation.
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/leg ... &subsctn=0
§ 2963. Exotic wildlife possession permits.
(a) Authorization.--The commission may issue permits to persons to possess exotic wildlife which shall authorize the holder to purchase, receive or possess exotic wildlife from any lawful source from within or without this Commonwealth.
http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/058/c ... 47toc.html
§ 147.261. Scope.
(a) General. This subchapter relates to the housing and care of exotic wildlife, and public protection from exotic wildlife held or transported by a person under the act or this part.
(b) Confinement. It is unlawful to maintain exotic wildlife, in confinement, in unsanitary or unsafe condition, or in a manner which results in maltreatment, mistreatment or neglect. No exotic wildlife may be confined in a pen, cage or enclosure which does not meet the minimum pen specifications in this subchapter. An animal may not be chained or tethered, or otherwise impeded from moving freely within a cage or enclosure unless otherwise indicated on the permit.
(c) Housing. Exotic wildlife shall be housed in a safe and sanitary manner. Failure to provide sanitary surroundings for exotic wildlife or failure to adequately protect the public from exotic wildlife possessed under the act and this subchapter is a violation of this subchapter.
(d) Bill of sale. It is unlawful for a person to possess exotic wildlife, except as provided in this subchapter, without having a bill of sale or other documentary evidence showing the name and address of the supplier of the exotic wildlife.
(e) Permit. A separate exotic wildlife possession permit is required for each animal.
(f) Experience required. A new applicant for an exotic wildlife possession permit shall provide documentation of at least 2 years experience of hands-on work with the designated species, including care, feeding, handling, training and husbandry. This experience shall be from a recognized/approved facility and the owner, manager or licensee of this facility shall provide a letter of reference.
The provisions of this § 147.261 issued under the Game and Wildlife Code, 34 Pa.C.S. § 2901.
http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/058/c ... 7.285.html
§ 147.285. Specifications.
It is unlawful for a permit holder to confine wildlife in a pen, cage or enclosure which does not meet minimum specifications or caging requirements. Except as otherwise provided in this section, minimum specifications and caging requirements for captive wildlife shall comply with the following:
(xviii) Wolves, hyenas.
(A) Number or size: Single animal.
(B) Cage size: 15'L by 8'W by 6'H. For a pair, double the cage length. For each additional animal—after two—add 10 feet to the cage length.
(C) Accessories: A secluded den area 4'W by 4'L is required for a single animal; add 3 feet in length for each additional animal.
I believe it is important that readers know the status of current laws in PA. I hope this was helpful!
They replied that day:
Good points on a topic that I've never had to address before.
Would you like me to forward to editorial page editor for consideration as a letter to the editor? He includes an address (name of town, state).
I called wolf sanctuary in Lititz yesterday afternoon, left voicemail message, didn't hear back.
I'm off today, but there's a followup today. Charges may be filed w/magistrate today. I'll let person who's working on that know about legality issue for potential Saturday story.
I then sent another reply citing a few other articles written about exotic ownership in PA that explain the laws as I did in my previous email:
I've been seeing many articles about this case, published with a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer being quoted saying wolf dogs/wolves being outright illegal to own in PA.
http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/08/ ... f-hybrids/
“There are three hybrid wolf-dogs as we speak, that we know about, at this time,” said Officer Joyce. “Any wolf hybrid is illegal in Pennsylvania under Title 34 of the Game and Wildlife Code.”
Which by the laws I read and other articles citing them, is not true. They even mention Title 34, and as I mentioned in my first email, it very clearly states that wolves and hybrids thereof are legal to own with a state-issued permit, enclosure and documented experience.
The PGC/those who handle the permits have been inconsistent with information before, and either do not know the law properly or sometimes give the wrong information. You can call the permit department in Harrisburg, talk to two different people and get two different answers about exotic animal possession/permits, unfortunately. I think they do this to discourage people from exotic animals. I can see their plight with cases like this, but misinformation about the law is not right to give to people in any circumstance (many people aren't going to read all of Title 34 and learn that it is legal to own these animals; most will read news articles and just assume they are not, and will continue spreading false information to others). But it is not that surprising given the incredible amount of misinformation that exists about wolf dogs in particular.
The sanctuary you called may be a bit biased toward ownership of exotics, for very valid reasons, given they are a sanctuary and will probably be taking these animals in if they are indeed wolf dogs. But if they cite the law, they should give the same verbiage I gave you earlier.
People who obtain illegal animals either don't know they need a permit/bill of sale (the breeder in this case might not have told them, or the person lied to the breeder about having a permit), they believed it impossible to obtain a permit (it is not impossible, but very difficult), or they simply didn't care about having a permit because they didn't think they would get caught. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, of course.
Here is an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that mentions there are active permits allowing wolves in the state, and general info about exotic wildlife possession in the state. It is from 2011 but the laws haven't really changed since then:
http://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/ ... 1110210209
"Pennsylvania's permit requirements are fairly stringent, said Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Prospective owners must present a letter from their municipality saying their pets are allowed and must have two years of experience working with the species that they'd like to own in an accredited facility. [This is consistent with the current laws]
There are 28 active permits for individual possession of exotic pets in the state, 11 dealer permits and 112 menagerie permits, which include traveling zoos that make stops in Pennsylvania. One permit can cover multiple animals, Mr. Feaser said, noting that one of the current permits covers 46 wolves, while another covers a bear, a cougar and a timber wolf."
Here is another article citing the same code: http://www.readingeagle.com/news/articl ... nship-home
"The individuals didn't have an exotic wildlife permit to possess a coyote as required by the state's exotic pet laws, Stoner said. Wolves, bears, cougars, lions and tigers are among the other animals that are considered exotic pets. The game commission may issue exotic permits to a person to act as an exotic pet dealer [as well as menagerie and private possession] only if it is satisfied the provisions for housing and caring for the wildlife and protecting the public are adequate."
Another interesting thing to note is that while you can apply for dog licenses, hunting, zoning and other permits online or at the treasury easily, there is no mention of exotic wildlife permits on any state-run website including PGC's. Being next door to Ohio might be part of it (and with the Zanesville, OH incident a few years ago, tensions are still a bit high about exotic ownership in the area); they don't want people bringing a lot of exotics into Pennsylvania from Ohio, for them to possibly deal with which is understandable, but not exactly fair to the average person who is interested in owning an animal of a higher care level than a dog or cat.
Again, thank you for taking the time to read my emails, I appreciate it.