The County Press

County board delays spending thousands to fly in witness for wolf-hybrid case

LAPEER — The Lapeer County Board of Commissioners on Thursday opted to table until January the matter of spending $10,000 to $12,000 to fly in an expert witness related to the ongoing case of wolf-dog hybrids.

On July 11, the Lapeer County Animal Control Dept. took custody of a black husky purported to be owned by Geuorgui Shopov. The animal has a dog license with a listed address of Columbiaville. On July 7, this animal, and another dog owned by Shopov, were running at large and killed an Attica Township resident’s four roosters, four fully-grown guineafowl and two rabbits. The reported damages are approximately $260.

Shopov was charged in July with violating the Wolf-Dog Cross Act, which states it is unlawful to own, possess, breed or offer a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid for sale. Violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days imprisonment, 500 hours community service, the loss of privileges to own any animal, $250- $1000 fine, plus costs of prosecution.

Lapeer County Animal Control sent a genetic sample from the Shopov’s animal to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California- Davis for forensic analysis, who analyzed the sample and determined that the animal is a wolf-dog hybrid. In a letter to County Controller John Biscoe last week, Sharkey stated that the cost to secure the services of Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Director, Dr. Christina Lindquist, as an expert witness in a trial would be $2,000 per day of testimony, plus $50 per hour of travel, as well as the costs of travel, meals and lodging.

Assistant Prosecutor Tom Sparrow made the request of the Board to table the matter to allow time to ask the court to admit the test results without the need of an expert witness. Sparrow said a successful motion would “negate the problem” of needing Lindquist’s services.

If the use of the expert witness would be needed, said Sparrow, it would be to show that Lapeer County won’t take ownership of illegal animals lightly. “It’s a serious issue,” he said, referencing an incident in Highland Township last year that resulted in a 7-year-old girl mauled by a wolf-hybrid animal. “If the court doesn’t grant the motion, it’s something the Board needs to consider,” said Sparrow.

According to Board members, the goal is to achieve a conviction without the need of Lindquist’s services as the expert witness. “I think it’s clear we don’t want a wolf-dog hybrid in our community, but if we can achieve that with the information in front of us without spending taxpayer money (we should),” said County Commissioner Ian Kempf.