How does the Virginia Code Treat Hybrid Canines?

When a domestic dog and another species of canine have puppies, you get hybrid canines. Virginia law regulates the ownership of such hybrid dogs.

A hybrid canine is a mix of a domesticated dog and a wolf, coyote, or other type of wild canine. Having a hybrid canine as a pet is a controversial issue, because their behavior can often be unpredictable.

Some states, however, allow hybrid dogs so long as their owners follow certain rules. In Virginia, hybrid canines aren’t illegal, but each locality can determine whether they’ll allow hybrid canine ownership, and how they will regulate it.

Hybrids v.s. Pure Breeds

Süßer Hund Mischling mit Ball im Mund bei Sonnenaufgang, Panorama mit Textfreiraum

Every mutt you meet is a hybrid between two or more breeds of dog.  But the Virginia code for regulating hybrid canines refers to a mixture of a domesticated dog and a wild dog, such as a wolf.

Some dogs have the look of a wolf, like Huskies or an Alaskan Malamutes. Others have similar features to coyotes or dingos, such as Basenjis. But those breeds are not hybrid canines. They are separate breeds that were developed by hundreds of years of domestication.

On the other hand, hybrid canines are created individuals from two related Canidae species, such as a wolf and a dog, have puppies together. The Virginia code specifically applies the term “hybrid canine” to:

“Any animal that is, or can be demonstrated to be, a hybrid of the domestic dog and any other species of the Canidae family.”

Further, any licensed veterinarian, law-enforcement officer, animal control officer, or other similar government agent can use their own discretion to describe a dog as a hybrid.

Generally speaking, “hybrid canine” is simply a term used by the state as a way of categorizing pets that might need additional restrictions to be kept. In this way, Virginia is one of only 15 states that let their residents keep hybrid canines. While Virginia has a few specific laws on the matter, in general the state leaves the specifics to individual counties and cities.

Basic State Laws for Hybrid Canines

As mentioned above, Virginia has a few specific laws governming the ownership of hybrid canines. Specifically:

  • Each locality can require a permit for canine hybrids and can set the requirements for a permit (including a fee.)
  • Localities can require “adequate confinement and responsible ownership” of canine hybrids.
  • Cities, towns, and counties can limit the number of canine hybrids in a household.
  • A locality can prohibit ownership of hybrid canines.

Damage from hybrid canines

Since hybrid canines often retain the instinct to hunt, they may target other animals around them. This can include livestock and chickens on another person’s property.

The Virginia code includes two sections which explain the legal process to go through when a hybrid canine attacks livestock or chickens. To summarize these sections:

  • An animal control officer, or owner of livestock, can legally shoot a hybrid canine that is currently attacking livestock.
  • If a court determines that a hybrid canine has attacked or killed livestock in the past, they can order that the canine be destroyed immediately, or removed to a non-bordering state.

Further, the code notes that the owner of livestock or poultry killed by a canine hybrid is entitled to compensation. Generally, this is done through a civil suit against the hybrid canine’s owner. The livestock owner may sue for the fair market value of each killed animal, up to a limit of $750 per animal. For poultry, they may sue for up to $10 per bird.

The Hybrid Canine Controversy

White lounging dog in modern apartment.

There are breeders in Virginia that specialize in wolf/dog hybrids. They emphasize the loyalty and intelligence of these hybrids, especially those that are at least 50% wolf. But many dog lovers see wolf/dog breeding as irresponsible.

Wild Dog Instincts

Dog trainers caution that wild canines haven’t been domesticated to follow directions from humans. Therefore, they warn that hybrid canines may revert to their instinct of pack mentality and predatory behavior. Also, many owners of hybrid canines find it almost impossible to keep their pet contained, since their instinct is to run.

For wild dog and wolf enthusiasts, however, adopting and training a hybrid canine is a labor of love. They argue that with the proper training and environment, hybrid canines can thrive with their human companions.

Know your Local Laws

Because of controversies such as the one above, Virginia has mostly left the laws for hybrid canines up to each individual city or county. Some localities may only require a permit. Others may have much more restrictive rules due to a history of problems with hybrid canines.

For example, to own a wolf/dog hybrid in the City of Richmond, you must:

  • Obtain a permit.
  • Have a 500 square-foot fenced-in space for the canine.
  • Build an 8 ½ foot fence around your yard, made out of a minimum of 11-gauge wire.
  • Have your fence anchored in a concrete base, with the fence wire going at least 1 ½ feet underground (to prevent digging under).

As you can see, the laws for owning a hybrid canine can get pretty specific. If you move to a new locality, you’ll want to make sure you know the laws for hybrid canines in your new area.

Conclusion

Husky playing with little girl outside.

Generally speaking, the state-level laws surrounding hybrid canines are pretty basic. However, these rules become more complicated as you dig deeper, as each locality in Virginia can determine its own rules regarding hybrid canine ownership.

Almost all localities require that you get a permit to own a hybrid canine, have adequate confinement for your pet, and keep your pet supervised whenever its outside. For these reasons, and several other more specific rules, you shouldn’t take hybrid canine adoption lightly.

Since they aren’t as domesticated as regular dogs, they may be hard to train. They may also revert to their pack and predator instincts. Most of all, before you consider adopting a hybrid canine, make sure you understand the laws in your county. If you have a hybrid canine without a permit or without proper confinement, you could face a hefty fine, or even the removal of your pet.

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