AURORA, Colo. -- The Abbato family hoped to take their nearly 11-year-old dog, Capone, home from the Aurora Animal Shelter on Wednesday.
But they’ll have to wait at least one more week because a municipal judge continued the case.
The family’s lawyer, Aaron Acker, said he needs more time to look at evidence he received Tuesday.
Employees at the animal shelter suspect the family's longtime pet is a wolf hybrid and they won’t give him back because it’s illegal to have them in the city.
It could mean a death sentence for the animal.
“He is our family member and we don’t have him with us. We miss him so much,” said Tracy Abbato, Capone’s owner.
Animal control officers captured him after he jumped the family’s fence three weeks ago.
Now, they’re holding him until a DNA test from the University of California Davis proves he’s not part wolf.
“One thing we need to know is what the DNA test is going to show. I think the statute is pretty vague. It does not pass constitutional muster,” Acker said.
Acker said the city’s law doesn’t state what percentage of wolf makes a dog a wolf.
“A lot of dogs could have 2 percent wolf in them. So what constitutes an actual wolf? Will they start pricking my beagle and finding whether it is a hybrid animal that should be terminated?” he said.
George Stapleton, a national wolf-dog advocate, has studied the animals dogs for 23 years. He said the broad city statute also concerns him.
“I understand the animal could test with wolf in it. But so could any dog, any dog. All dogs came from wolves. So when we talk about this we have to be specific,” he said.
The family said Capone has only ever been a German shepherd mix to them. And they can’t understand the forces that want to take him away.
“It’s even more frustrating because we don't know why. We have no answers. And our dog is just away from his family,” Abbato said.
If testing proves Capone is part wolf, he would have to be relocated to a wolf sanctuary or euthanized, if officials can’t place him.
Capone’s owners also face five charges, including a dog running at large and keeping a wild, exotic or dangerous animal.
It was also learned Wednesday that Capone bit someone who intruded into his family’s yard a few years ago.
But the family’s lawyer said that was an instance of him protecting the family’s property.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for legal and shelter impound fees along with a higher fence.