posted July 18, 2006 06:41 PM
This is why people should always respect and understand the nature of an Animal- especially one crossed with a wild animal.
By Paul Peirce, Jennifer Reeger and Liz Zemba
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Humane agents warned a Westmoreland County woman it was only a matter of time before the wolf hybrids she kept as pets turned on her.
Authorities are trying to determine if the pets attacked and killed Sandra L. Piovesan, whose body was found mauled in the fenced pen where the hybrids were housed on her Salem Township property.
Cyril Wecht and Associates is conducting an autopsy to determine if Piovesan, 50, was stricken by a medical problem or was killed by what authorities described as wolf hybrids, also known as wolf dogs.
Piovesan, who lived alone, had raised and bred wolf hybrids for several years, sometimes drawing complaints from neighbors to township and state officials.
"Everybody told her this would happen, but she just wouldn't listen," said Action for Animals Humane Society Officer Elaine Gower. "She was a very likable person, but she was just delusional about their danger, and totally misguided."
Wolves in the wild fear people because humans are their only predators, said James Paulson, outreach coordinator with Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in New Mexico. But wolf hybrids are more dangerous than wild wolves because they don't fear humans, Gower said.
Piovesan's daughter, Crystal, found her mother's body when she went to the home yesterday morning after Piovesan failed to meet her for breakfast.
State police Trooper Brian Gross said Piovesan's body was mauled "pretty bad" by the hybrids.
Gross said humane officers tranquilized the six animals before troopers shot and killed them.
"When we approached the pen, the wolves were excited, acting in a pack, walking side to side along the (8-foot-high) fence," Gross said.
He said troopers spoke with Piovesan's family before putting down the animals to protect those who retrieved the body.
Family and friends said Piovesan adored her exotic pets and always went into the pen to feed them.
She sometimes kept nearly a dozen wolf hybrids and occasionally invited visitors inside the pen to see them. She built a playground with tunnels and climbing stations for the animals.
Wolf hybrids do not make good pets, experts say.
Gretchen Fieser, spokeswoman with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, said the agency does not put up wolf hybrids for adoption because they are aggressive. Wolf hybrids dropped off at the shelter are euthanized.
Lee Neslar, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, said keeping wolf hybrids in packs heightens the danger because each animal is constantly vying for dominance.
"She loved those wolves just like pets. She told me she was part American Indian, and she told me it was part of her ethnic background," said Brian Gallagher, a longtime friend who has a theory about what happened.
"They were all one pack ... including Sandra, who was considered the leader of the pack. I think one of them may have wanted to take over as leader of the pack," Gallagher said.
John Smith, a law enforcement supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the agency had investigated some complaints about the animals but could do nothing about them.
According to the county treasurer's office, Piovesan had licensed the wolf hybrids as mixed-breed dogs.
"When they're licensed as dogs it's not our jurisdiction," Smith said.
Gower said there were indications the animals were wolves, but humane agents were not able to positively identify them.
"We had heard rumors she was selling or placing puppies, and she did call them wolves. But we could never prove it because no one (who bought the animals) ever complained."
She said Piovesan was cited once for failing to have the wolf hybrids vaccinated for rabies.
The animals began to turn on one another last year.
"They had killed one of the older wolves," Gower said. "It was a big enclosure, but they were stressed out and crowded, for wolf hybrids. There wasn't enough room, and they were attacking one another."
Ed Gieselman, a former Salem Township supervisor who owns a business near Piovesan's home, said he never had any problems with the animals, which were well-contained and only howled when emergency sirens sounded. Gieselman said Piovesan fed the hybrids roadkill.
The horrible thing is that those animals did not ask to be created and yet because of her insistance on keeping a hybrid breed going and due to her death, they were all killed.