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Dog at center of social media controversy is returning home

Wolf is going back home.

The 6-year-old husky has been in the care of the SPCA Serving Erie County since last month, after someone complained about its living outdoors this winter in Angola.

The SPCA’s investigation concluded that Wolf was in decent shape and that his living quarters – a fully insulated 10-foot-by-10-foot enclosure – were acceptable, though not ideal. “We are not backing up anyone who lets dogs live outside,” said spokeswoman Gina Browning.

But the dog’s owner continued to be harassed to the point where he surrendered Wolf to the Town of Brant’s animal control officer and, eventually, the SPCA.

Meanwhile, outcry about Wolf continued on Facebook. Then word spread that he was to be euthanized Monday because SPCA officials refused offers by rescue groups to take custody of him.

“The dog is going to be going with the most recent owner, who surrendered the dog to us,” Browning said Monday. A statement later issued by the SPCA noted: “The family is happy and anxious for Wolf’s return.”

According to Browning, Wolf proved to be a “biter” during behavioral evaluations at the SPCA. That behavior had led to his repeatedly changing homes during the early years of his life.

“The dog has a history of biting, at least in the last four homes,” Browning said. Wolf had been with his most recent family since September 2013.

Earlier this month, the SPCA put out feelers to find a registered animal rescue organization that worked with certified trainers to work with Wolf. “Certainly, this is not a situation where we would put this dog up for adoption – general adoption – at the SPCA,” said Barbara Carr, the organization’s executive director.

Some organizations looked at Wolf’s history and decided not to get involved, she said.

Euthanasia became a consideration, Carr acknowledged, but she said SPCA officials held out hope for a different resolution.

And the debate on social media continued.

“We will not engage in social media when these complicated situations come up,” Carr said Monday. “They’re way too complicated for posts on Facebook.”

Some of those posts featured photographs of random huskies in unknown locations, SPCA officials said.

Emails sent to local media outlets, including The Buffalo News, attacked the SPCA in general and Carr in particular.

A woman from Pennsylvania wrote Sunday that Wolf was recently rescued “from a horrible life on the end of the chain. The Erie County SPCA is determined to end his life with a needle tomorrow … despite the pleas of a rescue organization willing to take him and assume all responsibility.”

In the end, the SPCA found help from Buffalo Pug & Small Breed Rescue Inc.

“I think it’s important to establish that this dog is aggressive,” said Jenn Wheeler, that group’s vice president. “He is happy and has far less issues when he’s outside.”

Robin Bell, a volunteer with the group who has 30 years of rescue experience, said evaluations of Wolf suggest that he’s reactionary when he’s in an enclosed environment. “It’s an environmental issue, not just an all-round behavioral issue,” she said.

Buffalo Pug & Small Breed Rescue, along with the SPCA, will work with Wolf’s family to ensure he continues to thrive in his preferred environment, said Browning.

“The irony here is that this dog probably was never in need of rescue,” Carr said.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com