By Tom Alex
than a biscuit: Scrappy can go home
A Polk County judge says the wolf-dog
may reside in Des Moines.
the aging wolf-dog, went home Friday after
a Polk County judge said the animal was
improperly seized by Des Moines animal
the ruling, Scrappy's owner, Crystal Smith,
said she was "relieved. That's about
all I can say. I can't wait to get her
But Smith's relief was briefly put on
hold when Des Moines' city attorney, Katherine
Massier, said Scrappy couldn't return
to the city because rabies vaccinations
haven't been approved for use in wolves
or wolf hybrids. Without a rabies certificate,
a dog license couldn't be issued, Massier
said in the courthouse hallway.
attorney Pamela Vandel disagreed, and
Scrappy's supporters and Massier returned
to Judge Robert Hanson's courtroom.
Vandel asked Hanson if his ruling meant
that Scrappy could go home. Massier again
made her rabies agrument, which she had
made during the trial.
Hanson indicated the point could be agrued
at another time. In the meantime, he said,
Scrappy could return home.
Scrappy was picked up running loose by
animal control officers on April 29. As
Smith was retrieving her pet, a humane
officer said the animal was a wolf and
could not be kept in Des Moines.
Aug. 7, Scrappy won a partial reprieve
in a court hearing and was allowed to
stay in the care of Darcy Emehiser, a
professional trainer, at Rover's Ranch
near Runnells. The dog park allowed Scrappy
more room to run, and Smith was allowed
Everyone seemed to agree during Friday's
trial that Scrappy is not a wolf but rather
a wolf hybrid. Des Moines' ordinance does
not mention hybrids, just wolves.
A paragraph in the ordinance also says
that an animal cannot be kept in the city
if it is not naturally tame or gentle,
is of a wild nature or disposition and
is capable of killing, inflicting serious
injury upon, or causing disease among
human beings or domesticated animals and
having known tendencies as a species to
called two expert witnesses: Ronald DeArmond,
a professional wildlife educator, and
called on Dan Campbell, chief staff veterinarian
with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
De Armond and Emehiser said wolf hybrids
are naturally tame and do not have a naturally
wild nature or disposition. Campbell said
that in general they are not naturally
tame and do have a wild nature.
sided with DeArmond and Emehiser.
Hanson said he does not personally agree
with the owning of wild animals.
are getting this ruling from someone who
does not believe wild animals or even
large animals should be kept in the city,"
He added, "There are things about
this city ordinance that are not spelled
out very clearly."
Smith said she got Scrappy about eight
years ago from a friend, whom she hasn't
seen in several years. "She said
she thought Scrappy might have some wolf
in her but she wasn't sure," Smith
said after the trial.
previous animal investigation reports,
Scrappy is listed by city officials as
a husky or malamute, Smith said.
Has the story come to an end?
Smith said Scrappy is up to date on her
shots. The questions that may yet arise:
Is the shot effective on a wolf-dog? Emehiser
said it is as it would be for any dog.
By Mark Hansen
or dog? Scrappy goes on trial today
the 9-year-old wolf dog will miss her
own trial today. I want to say she's tied
up, but that's inaccurate. While Polk
County Judge Robert Hanson listens to
testimony, Scrappy will be at the dog
ranch in Runnells, her latest home away
Polk County Judge Robert Hanson listens
to testimony, Scrappy will be a the dog
ranch in Runnells, her lastest home away
She will, however, have legal representation.
When it's over, the judge will decide
whether Scrappy returns to her human family
in Des Moines or goes away, possibly to
an animal santuary in Indiana for wolves
and wolf-dog hybrids that were raised
"It looks like a wonderful place,"
says Des Moines' Deputy City Attorney
Katharine Massier, who points out that
Scrappy sometimes gets loose. "A
wolf small backyard can't be contained."
Ealier in the week, Massier asked Hanson
for a continuance. It seems somebody found
a researcher at the University of Idaho
who has a blood test that determines whether
an animal is a wolf or a dog.
If true, that beats the alternative, which
involves waiting until the critter dies
and measuring its bones.
Hanson said no. One out-of-town witness
would have trouble rescheduling, and the
court date has been hanging on the calendar
for at least a month now. It's time to
Scrappy has been living away from home
since April when she wiggled under the
backyard fence after heavy rains washed
some of the earth away.
Animal control nabbed her and brought
her to the shelter. The next day, owner
Crystal Smith came to pick her up and
pay the fine. Scrappy got her shots and
her tags and was about to hop into the
car when the humane officer sent her back
In Des Moines, he said, it's against the
law to keep a wolf as a pet. The law says
nothing about wolf dogs, which could be
the main point of contention today.
Scrappy spent three months at the Animal
Rescue League before she was shipped to
Rover's Ranch Dog Park and Training Center
in Runnells. Rover's is a leafy, spacious
place with animal-loving owners, but it
Smith, a cook at the Wesley Acres retirement
facility in Des Moines, says she loves
Scrappy like one of her kids. Smith's
9-year-old grandson tells Smith he likes
Scrappy better than her shepherd.
According to Darcy Emehiser, the family
visits her dog ranch almost daily, sometimes
having dinner on the patio, staying until
the sun goes down.
Is Scrappy a wolf?
Scrappy's lawyer, Pamela Vandel, says
no and it's up to the city to prove otherwise,
which won't be easy.
What if Scappy is 49 percent dog? Or 51?
Does that make her a wolf? Is there even
People who research these things say all
dogs come from the gray wolf. Dogs and
wolves have the same DNA. Over the last
50,000 years, there's been so much interbreeding,
it's impossible to calculate an exact
In court today, Vandel will present pictures
of wolves and dogs and try to show how
hard it is to tell them apart. She'll
describe Scrappy's physical traits and
point out how different they are from
those of a full-fledged wolf.
Look at the ears, the teeth, the head,
the snout, the legs, the feet, the tail.
And while Scrappy and other female dogs
go into heat twice a year, wolves are
one and done.
The city, meanwhile, has photos of Scrappy
looking more like White Fang or something
else that jumped out of a Jack London
Back at Rover's Ranch, Emehiser says even
if Scrappy looks like a wolf, she acts
like a dog, and that's the important thing.
Behavior and temperament depend largely
on how the animal is raised and socialized
by the humans around it, and Emehiser
says Smith has done a good job.
city calls Scappy a wolf now, but in previous
animal investigation reports and complaints,
she was a "husky" or a "husky
wolf" or a "dog/malamute?"
Last spring when she was named, she was
called a "wolf type" and was
"caught ... easily."
went peacefully, which was no surprise
to Smith. The dog police tell her Scrappy
is a good girl who jumps right in the
van when called.
Her ancestors in the untamed Yukon would
By Mark Hansen
has trainer on her side
a visitor approached the gate at Rover's
Ranch Dog Park and Training Center in
Runnells, the clientele gave him a noisy
The goldendoodle and the shepherd were
particularly raucous. They barked for
position and scuffled for attention.
Darcy Emehiser, the dog trainer who owns
and operates the 10-acre facility, tried
to calm them.
"Look who's fighting," she said,
turning to the visitor. "Not the
One of the three wolf dogs, a 9-year-old
named Scrappy, was off to the side, taking
it in. When the initial fuss subsided,
she sidled over to say hello and solicit
Scrappy, so named because table scraps
were all she wanted when owner Crystal
Smith brought her home, wasn't there voluntarily.
While the other guests belonged to Emehiser
or dog owners who were either working
or on vacation, Scrappy was in exile.
She came from the Des Moines Animal Rescue
League, where she spent three months in
doggy jail waiting for a court to decide
on her ancestry.
Is Scrappy a pet who belongs at the foot
of Smith's bed?
Or is she a wolf who belongs in a wolf
sanctuary? Emehiser says Scrappy wouldn't
survive the experience.
Scrappy hasn't been home since the end
of April, when she slipped under the backyard
fence. She isn't a digger or a climber,
but erosion from the rain carved an opening
under the fence. Scrappy and her German
shepherd roommate took it.
next day, Smith was springing her pet,
catching up on Scrappy's shots, getting
her tags, and paying the ticket. Smith's
nephew was leading Scrappy to the car
when Des Moines' chief humane officer
stopped them: The wolf stays.
No doubt, Scrappy looks like she could
be related to a wolf. Then again, so do
full-bred huskies, malamutes and other
northern dog breeds.
She has a few wolflike personality traits.
She likes to hang back and scope things
out before making a commitment. She can
be shy, but so can some of the more conventional
Once she gets to know you, though, Scrappy
might roll over and let you rub her tummy.
One of Smith's grandkids is on record:
He likes Scrappy even better than the
In court, Scrappy will go up against Des
Moines' illegal and dangerous animal ordinance.
A wolf is considered an illegal animal.
A dangerous animal is one that bites or
claws humans or domestic animals. Just
once above the shoulders is all it takes.
Scrappy has a blemish on her record. She
killed a neighbor puppy once — picked
the little dog up and tried to take it
home. Smith says even the neighbor believes
much of the damage was done in the struggle
to extricate the pup, but there it is.
As far as I know, nobody has ever accused
Scrappy of attacking or biting or displaying
aggressive behavior toward a human. Emehiser
says that would be out of character.
Emehiser never met Scrappy before Animal
Care and Control called her for an opinion.
I'm sure Josh Colvin, operations manager,
got his money worth.
SCRAPPY! Believe in common sense? You
are not alone. Contact DMPD Police Chief
Judy Bradshaw and demand the resignation
of ‘Chief Humane Officer’
Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh. Read
the 4-part story below:
Des Moines Register
By Brenda Fullick
Wolf? Canine in custody until answer found
owner says the animal isn't a wolf, but
the police aren't so sure. A Des Moines
ordinance says wolves can't be pets.
was released on a probation of sorts Thursday
pending a determination of whether the
animal is a dog, wolf or wolf dog.
animal has been in custody since April
29, when she was picked up after running
owner Crystal Smith tried to retrieve
Scrappy from the Animal Rescue League
of Iowa Inc., someone decided the animal
looked like a wolf and detained it.
Moines, like dozens of other cities, has
an ordinance that says residents can't
keep a wolf.
said Scrappy isn't a wolf.
am not positive of her breed mix, but
she has a Siberian husky look," said
Smith, who has owned the animal for about
eight years. "She does not have wild
animal tendencies. She's very tame and
Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh, Des Moines' chief
humane officer, said: "All the indicators,
to me, are that it's a wolf. My dilemma
is I can't just walk away from that. I
don't feel comfortable with someone keeping
it in the city like it's a dog."
the city ordinance mentions "wolves,"
and not wolf dogs or wolf-dog mixes, a
court will decide the animal's fate.
issue was discussed before Judge Robert
Hanson on Thursday. But the only decision
made was that Scrappy could be released
to Rovers Ranch in Runnells, in the care
of Darcy Emehiser, a professional dog
promised under oath that she has ample
insurance and a fenced area from which
Scrappy can't escape.
attorney, Pam Vandel, said the issue boils
down to whether Scrappy is a wolf or a
dog. She said most dogs have wolf in their
ancestry. Vandel said there's no way to
know until Scrappy is dead whether she's
David Mech, an adjunct professor at the
University of Minnesota who has a special
interest in wolves, said DNA can be used
to tell whether an animal is a wolf or
a dog but it won't yield a percentage
of either in a mix.
said it's not possible to tell a wolf
from some hybrids by examination.
said the World Conservation Union Wolf
Specialist Group, of which he is chairman,
recommends against keeping wolves or wolf
dogs as pets.
one has papers showing Scrappy's family
date for the next hearing was not announced.
By Brenda Fullick
What if someone
shot your dog?
What if you found out that your pet had been gunned down for sport with a spotlight and a high-powered rifle?
And what if you found out that, in the state of Iowa, it was perfectly legal?
Darcy Emehiser wants to change the state law that says anyone has a right to kill any dog not wearing a collar with a rabies tag in rural Iowa.
The current law was adopted at a time when rabid animals were a significant threat to Iowa's early residents. The law states, "It shall be lawful for any person and the duty of all peace officers. ... to kill any dog for which a rabies vaccination is required, when the dog is not wearing a collar with rabies vaccination tag attached."
The law also states that even if a dog is wearing proof of rabies vaccination, that dog may be killed on the spot when it is "worrying, chasing, maiming or killing any domestic animal or fowl. ..."
Worrying? Should a dog be killed because it makes another animal "worry"?
Emehiser isn't impractical; she believes that farmers deserve the right to kill feral animals when necessary to protect their livestock, and she believes that all people should have the right to protect themselves from dangerous dogs.
However, Emehiser - who operates an exercise park for dogs and their humans about five minutes east of Des Moines - doesn't think it ought to be legal for Iowans to kill other people's animals for the sheer joy of watching them die.
Lost in the fog
Emehiser's nightmare started on a Tuesday.
It was Dec. 27, 2005. Area fog hung so thick, a woman was killed in the Lowe's parking lot in Altoona because a driver couldn't see her.
Emehiser had been walking back to her house that day after a training session with her four dogs: Sage, Jasmine, Logan and Timber. Suddenly, three of the dogs took off, maybe chasing a rabbit or a squirrel; only the elderly Sage stayed behind.
Emehiser called to her dogs, and Timber returned to the house, but Logan and Jasmine didn't show. This was extremely unusual, because Emehiser is a professional dog trainer who makes sure her dogs have impeccable manners. "They had awesome recall - awesome recall," she says. Beyond that, the dogs had plenty of freedom to romp in the country at their home between Pleasant Hill and Runnells; they weren't like dogs who are cooped up in houses or yards and desperate for the chance to run.
Emehiser soon became convinced that Logan and Jasmine got turned around in the heavy fog and couldn't see to find their way home. Fortunately, she knew that Logan and Jasmine would be polite if they met up with humans: Both had their Canine Good Citizen certifications.
Logan in particular was a solid, levelheaded character: He was so calm, confident and patient that Emehiser had been using him during training to help re-socialize other dogs. "He was such a gentle spirit," Emehiser says.
Emehiser and her partner, Lin Nibblelink, launched an unusually exhaustive, exhausting search: They distributed thousands of flyers, bought two billboards on Iowa Highway 163, commissioned two aerial searches, sought tracking help from the Native American community, and arranged for a horseback search coordinated by the Animal Rescue League.
They also worked with animal communicators. And they bought newspaper advertisements that announced $1,000 rewards for each dog.
False sightings kept Emehiser's phone ringing - she racked up a $1,200 cell phone bill in just three weeks - and she followed up on a dizzying number of dead-end leads.
"We searched no less than 20 hours a day for the next 18 days," Emehiser says.
The searchers followed creek beds. When actual sightings were confirmed by people who knew Logan and Jasmine personally, the searchers would use urine and dog fur to try to leave a trail leading them back home.
But as far as anyone could tell, Jasmine and Logan kept moving, trying to find their way home. They just didn't know what direction home was.
At one point, they found Jasmine's leather collar. Her tags, including her rabies tag, had been removed.
Then, on day 16, they got a phone call: An elderly lady said there was a dog in a roadside ditch near her house. And, in fact, it was Jasmine's body. Apparently she bled to death from two gunshot wounds.
The elderly woman's son came by, Emehiser says, and he knew specific details about who had shot Jasmine.
But it wasn't technically a crime under Iowa law. Jasmine's collar had been removed, along with a bright orange harness designed to protect against accidents during hunting season.
The searchers kept looking for Logan. And two days later they found his body about 150 feet from where Jasmine had died.
He, too, had died, from a gunshot wound to the heart.
Logan's collar, tags and orange harness were also missing.
"They were shot with high-powered rifles and spotlights," Emehiser says. She says the elderly woman's son had a story that matched what animal communicators were telling her about what happened. We had some names, so we confronted some people."
However, the Jasper County Sheriff's Department wouldn't take a report, Emehiser says. After all, it's not illegal to shoot dogs in Iowa - even though the whole community was plastered with billboards, ads and flyers letting people know that these dogs were missing members of Emehiser's family.
"Then to have them just be shot when everybody - everybody - was aware we were looking for them," Emehiser says. "So we decided that the law needed to be changed."
A petition drive
This year just before funnel week, Emehiser and friends worked with Rep. Geri Huser, Animal Rescue League's Tom Colvin and the ARL lobbyist in an attempt to create support in the Legislature to change the law. But they started too late in the process, and certain vocal legislators were against them. Emehiser recalls Rep. Danny Carroll of Grinnell in particular as saying, "I don't want anybody to take away my right to shoot a dog."
Emehiser doesn't want people to lose that right, either. However, she believes most well-intentioned farmers would shoot warning shots into the air if a dog were really bothering their livestock; what she's trying to stop are the people who shoot dogs for amusement or spite. Emehiser says she's not anti-gun, but that her father taught her that you eat what you kill: "You don't just shoot to kill for fun."
Emehiser says she has cried every morning and every night since she lost Logan and Jasmine. "This loss has been harder than losing my mother."
It's illegal for private citizens to shoot guns in Des Moines and many other cities.
However, ARL director Colvin says that rural Iowa is divided between the people who care about animals' welfare and the people who follow the policy of the "three S's" - shoot, shovel and shut up. "That means you do it, and you don't tell anybody about it, and nobody's going to know," Colvin says.
ARL frequently gets calls from people whose dogs have run off their properties, Colvin says. "Before they could even get them back, they've been shot by a neighbor or whatever. And the neighbor may or may not have livestock."
Iowa's current law was designed to protect farmers, he says. However, people who just don't like dogs "can hide behind the same law. That's the frustration."
In many instances, like in the case of Logan and Jasmine, there were no livestock around to be chased, or even "worried."
One hundred years ago, "worrying" had a different meaning, Colvin explains. It meant that an animal was surrounded by potential predators and so fearful that it could harm itself. He argues that the law needs to be updated to reflect the current meaning of the word.
He also thinks the law should no longer decree that it's the "duty of all peace officers" to kill untagged dogs. "I've talked to a lot of law enforcement people that, frankly, don't want to shoot dogs," Colvin says.
A couple of weeks ago, petitions began showing up in coffeehouses and grooming businesses, asking for Iowa citizens to support a change in the law. The petition also will be emailed to veterinary offices throughout the state. "I want thousands" of people to sign, Emehiser says. "I can't see why we can't have 20,000 or 30,000 names, if not more."
More information is available at www.roversranch.com .
Des Moines Register
Seek justice in the killing of dogs
Two days after Christmas, two pet dogs got seperated from their owner in the woods around Runnells.
Last week, after a massive, nearly 'round-the-clock search, the dogs turned up, three days and about a quarter-mile apart, in a Washington Township cornfield.
They'd been shot with high-powered rifles for sport, their owners say, and left to bleed to death.
Jasmine, a 9-year-old malamute -german shepherd mix, and Logan, a 3 year-old malamute-husky mix, had been owned by Darcy, a professional dog trainer, since they were puppies. The pictures show beautiful dogs, whose owner, in happier times, dressed her pooch for the photo in a red bandanna and top hat.
Darcy owns Rover's Ranch, a dog park and training center between Pleasant Hill and Runnells.
Devestated isn't a strong enough word to describe how she feels. She's beside herself with sorrow and rage. Not only were the dogs her best friends, she says, but Logan actually helped her train other dogs.
Whoever shot them did it for fun, she says. She calls it poaching: "I don't want to slam all hunters but these guys are not hunters."
Both dogs had been wearing orange harnesses and metal-buckle collars with four tags apiece, including blinking ones. Jasmine's collar however, had come undone and was found seperately. Both pets also had microchips implanted for identification.
But in the end, none of the safeguards protected them. What's worse, as cases involving hunters often do, whether in gorilla territory in Africa or the deer-filled woods of Maine, the shootings have split the community into two camps.
In one camp are the hundreds of friends and neighbors who went out in search teams, posted fliers offering a $1000 reward for the dogs' safe return, and have cooked meals and sent flowers and sympathy cards to the owners. Jasmine and Logan were known in the neighborhood. They were used in demonstrations at local schools. Involved in the search were people from Polk County Animal Control and the director of the Animal Rescue League.
In the other camp are people defending the still unidentified shooters by lashing out at the two owners, who have appeared on local TV news and are offering a reward for information. Darcy estimated she's gotten hundreds of hateful letters and phone calls from people defending the killings and blaming her for letting the dogs out of her sight. She'd stopped in her house to use the bathroom when they took off in a fog and sleet.
The law says you can shoot a nuisance animal on your property if it's a threat to people or livestock, but Darcy says her dogs were no threat to anyone. Jasmine weighed about 100 pounds, and hobbled because of hip dysplasia. There were no farmers or livestock for miles around. And she says her dogs could hardly be mistaken for coyotes because they were three times the size.
Both before and since the shootings, the women have combed the area and spoken to witnesses. Some placed the dogs at various spots over the two and a half weeks they were missing, but didn't call animal control. Others reported seeing three trucks carrying hunters trespassing on private property at night, using spotlights.
As for authorities, Darcy says despite several reports to the Jasper County Sheriff's Department and 4,000 fliers people distributed in the area, officers did nothing. A record keeper at the sheriff's department pulled up the records of a couple calls from the women, but there's not even a report on file from the sheriff's deputy they spoke to.
Clearly, to some, the fate of a couple of pets is a low priority.
Those of us who have and love animals can't understand how anyone could be cavalier about deliberate cruelty to them - even though almost daily, there are stories of pet heroics toward humans.
Maybe when a price tag can be put on their value to humanity, we'll get tougher about protecting them.