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Family pet or wild animal? 3-month old boy killed by 'wolf-hybrid,' authorities say

A 3-month-old boy in Alabama died last week after an attack from the family pet, a hybrid animal that was part dog, part wolf, authorities said.

Shelby County Sheriff's Department deputies received a call just before 1 p.m. on Thursday about an animal attack involving an infant at a home in Chelsea, Alabama, according to a release. Multiple agencies, including firefighters and animal control, responded to the scene.

The boy was transported to a local hospital by ambulance with a police escort, officials said. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

Officials said the wolf-hybrid – a canine with mixed wolf and dog ancestry – was kept as a pet by the infant’s family. Shelby County Coroner Lina Evans told CNN the family knew of the animal’s wolf-hybrid lineage.

Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer confirmed the child’s death, reporting the baby was killed by an “exotic family pet.”

"It's unthinkable," Picklesimer said. "How do you ever get over that?"

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Parents couldn't get baby away from wolf-hybrid

The Shelby County Coroner told Fox 6 News that the parents said the baby was on the floor when the wolf-hybrid picked him up and “started playing with him.” The parents tried to get their son away from the animal but it was too late, the outlet reported, citing the coroner.

The wolf-hybrid was euthanized at the scene by a local veterinarian at the request of law enforcement, according to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office rerlease. The animal was sent to the Alabama State Diagnostics Laboratory in Auburn for further examination.

The infant’s death, and the circumstances that led to it, are under investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

Where are exotic animals legal?

Picklesimer said it is not illegal to own a wolf-hybrid in Chelsea or the state of Alabama.

“Alabama is one of four states in the United States that does not have a code against exotic animals. Once they get a taste, nature takes over and it’s just very sad,” he told Fox 6 News.

According to Big Cat Rescue, the other three states are Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Twenty-one states, including Hawaii, Kentucky and Massachusetts, ban all exotic pets, with the rest allowing certain species or requiring permits for the animals, the organization said.

According to the International Wolf Center, thousands of pet wolves or hybrids are abandoned, rescued or euthanized each year because people do not adequately provide for the animals or are ill-prepared for their wild behaviors. Animals kept in conditions inadequate for their mental and physical needs pose a safety risk to humans, the organization said.

In December 2022, the federal Big Cat Public Safety Act was signed into law. Carole Baskin, of "Tiger King" fame, has publicly taken credit for the law and pushed for its passage for years.

Under the law, big cat owners across the U.S. are required to register their animals with the federal government, regardless of their own state's laws or risk charges, fines, and loss of ownership. This will tackle issues of illegal ownership and address concerns about exotic pets that are inadequately cared for, advocates said.

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Wolf-hybrid' Alabama family pet killed 3-month-old boy: Authorities