Almost every parent will tell you that the very first moment they laid eyes upon their child, they realized just how exponentially their level of responsibility had expanded. Not only were they responsible for the safety, well-being and future of themselves or their partner, they now were responsible for doing that for a virtually helpless human being they were now charged with raising to adulthood to be a conscientious member of a functioning society.
Note the caveat there: almost every parent. Every once in a while, one comes across a story that, as a mother or father, sickens and discomfits you because of the arrant lack of responsibility. Such is the case in Shelby County, Alabama, where a 3-month-old baby is dead thanks to an exotic pet no prudent parent would own.
EXOTIC PET KILLS BABY: The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office says a 3-month-old baby in Alabama died after being bitten by a “wolf-hybrid” kept as the family’s pet. https://t.co/SwQeT0XoeT
— Local 3 News (@Local3News) December 4, 2023
The Shelby County Coroner and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department are now investigating.
“On Thursday, November 30, 2023, at approximately 12:54 pm Shelby County 911 received an emergency call reporting an animal attack involving an infant at a residence in the area of County Road 440 in Chelsea,” the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said in a media release Friday.
“Shelby County deputies, Chelsea firefighters, and Shelby County Animal Control Officers responded to the scene. The infant was transported to an area hospital by ambulance, with a law enforcement escort.
“Upon arrival at the hospital, the infant was pronounced dead due to injuries suspected to have been caused by the animal. The animal is described as a wolf-hybrid and was reportedly kept as a pet by the family of the infant,” the news release continued.
“The animal was euthanized at the scene by an area Vet, at the request of law enforcement, and has been transported to the Alabama State Diagnostics Laboratory in Auburn for further examination and investigation. There is no threat to the public. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the circumstances that led to the death of the infant.”
WBRC reported the Shelby County Coroner said that, “according to the parents, the baby was on the floor and the wolf-hybrid picked up the baby and started playing with him. They stated the parents tried to get the baby from the wolf-hybrid, but it was too late.”
“Its just unthinkable that this could happen to this baby,” Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said.
“If you choose to own an exotic pet, what comes with that is additional responsibility to be sure that not only your family is safe, but your neighbors are safe.”
Now, to be fair, WBRC also reported that it’s unclear just how much the family knew about the animal.
“Amy Byrd, a wolf-hybrid expert told WBRC the only way to truly know if you own a wolf-hybrid is through an extensive DNA test,” the station reported.
“Byrd said true wolf-hybrids are rare and she doesn’t believe there are that many here in Alabama. [Eighty] to 90 percent of the wolf-hybrids Byrd sees in Alabama are actually multi-generation northern K-9 breeds. In many cases, these animals are sold to inexperienced homes that have not done the proper research on the animals.”
However, it’s also safe to say that, if the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was describing the animal as a “wolf-hybrid” with some certainty the day after the animal killed the infant, there was no “extensive DNA test[ing]” done upon the animal; someone involved clearly knew what they were dealing with.
Furthermore, as Byrd noted, any canine of sufficient strength and problematic temperament is capable of doing harm to a child.
“And when you mix that with an ancient breed like a wolf dog, you have an animal with extreme intelligence, a lot of athletic ability and the tendency to want to escape,” she said.
Mayor Picklesimer asked that those on social media exercise kindness toward the family while seemingly blaming the state’s laws for the loss.
“Alabama is one of four states in the United States that does not have a code against exotic animals,” he said. “Once they get a taste, nature takes over, and it’s just very sad.”
One can indeed have sympathy for this family’s loss without believing that Alabama’s state code regarding “exotic animals” is to blame. Again, it’s murky what this family knew about this dog being a “wolf-hybrid” — or, according to the expert WBRC quoted, whether it actually was a “true wolf-hybrid” and not one of many “multi-generation northern K-9 breeds” — but one can surmise that they had a dangerous pet that was not a run-of-the-mill dog. It killed their child.
It doesn’t take much to do the math and realize there was likely a gross abdication of parental responsibility here. Absent some piece of exculpatory evidence so wild one would have to construct a mind-bogglingly elaborate scenario to introduce it, there’s no excuse for this exotic pet being around a child. Period. They were responsible for the safety of a virtually helpless human being; even if they thought this was just some kind of dog, it was still a dog that quite obviously did not belong anywhere near their child. Whether or not this merits charges is a matter for law enforcement, but the fact remains that this death almost certainly could have been avoided by exercising elementary parental responsibility.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.