Chelsea infant killed by family wolf-dog hybrid

Published 12:27 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – On Thursday, Nov. 30, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and medics from the Chelsea Fire Department responded to a 911 call regarding an infant being attacked by an animal in a residence on County Road 440.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders found that the baby had been mauled by the family’s pet wolf-dog hybrid. The infant was immediately taken to Grandview Medical Center for emergency treatment, and then to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital. However, while he was alive upon arrival, the infant was soon pronounced dead from his injuries.

“It’s been confirmed that one of our children here in Chelsea was killed by an exotic family pet and succumbed to their injuries yesterday afternoon after being taken to the hospital by Chelsea Fire & Rescue,” Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said in an official statement. “We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate and tragic event.  We lift up the family and all those affected with our deepest prayers and thoughts.”

Alabama is one of only four states in the United States, the others being Nevada, Wisconsin and North Carolina, that have no restrictions on the private ownership of exotic animals such as; big cats, primates and exotic reptiles.  

“It’s perfectly legal to own animals like this one,” Picklesimer said. “But how do you let an animal like that near a 3 month-old child? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The wolf-dog hybrid that killed the infant in Chelsea on Thursday was euthanized on-site by a veterinarian. The animal was taken to the Alabama State Diagnostics Laboratory in Auburn for further examination.

A report from the sheriff’s office indicates that the owners of the wolf-dog had known about their pet’s lineage, and while there were other children in the home at the time of the incident none of them were harmed.

DHR and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department are both currently investigating the case to determine the exact circumstances behind the infant’s death and if any other instances of child endangerment occurred.

“Child safety and security are always a top priority for us,” Picklesimer said. “We have shared all the details we can share right now. In a few days after the family has had some time to grieve, there will be further investigation.”

Picklesimer asks that people be kind to the victim’s family over social media during this time as they grieve the death of their son.

“Please be kind to them,” Picklesimer said.

The ownership of animals classified as exotic, including wolf-dog hybrids, has risen over the past decades with the American Veterinary Association reporting in 2016 that the private ownership of exotic animals had risen by 25 percent since 2011.

Nonprofits like Born Free USA and news sources like National Geographic have reported that there have been numerous cases in the last decade of the owners of exotic animals being infected with diseases like Hepatitis B, salmonella and monkeypox from their pets. There have also been other cases where an individual, often a young child, has been killed by their family’s exotic pet.