A SCIENTIFIC expert warned yesterday that dangerous wolf hybrids could not be detected through DNA testing.

Dr Jeff Sampson, a senior lecturer in biochemistry at Leicester University, said that currently there was no way of determining through DNA-which is the basic building block of every living thing-the proportion of wolf in any dog.

"At the DNA level dogs are wolves. Obviously the dog was domesticated 50,000 years ago.

"In the meantime dogs have been interbred so there will be differences in the gene pool between domestic dogs and the gene pool of wild wolves, but nobody has found out what those differences are," he said.

"Using present technology there is no way I could say whether an animal is wolf or dog. I don't know of any way you could tell that."

Dr Sampson said all dogs, whatever their breed, would show wolf DNA characteristics because the domestic dog was bred from wolves over many thousands of years.

"Essentially dogs were wolves. By looking at mutations that have occurred over thousands of years we can guess when attempts were made to domesticate these animals.

"There have been three or four different attempts to domesticate the wolf," he said.

"They have been selected for their characteristics, which make them domesticated and endear them to man, and man to them."

Dr Sampson was called on as a source of expert evidence for the Rotherham case in which a judge decided that where a hybrid contained one per cent wolf it would be classified under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976.

"Both the prosecution and defence sought my advice about whether DNA could be used to determine the wolf characteristics of a hybrid, but I said it just wasn't possible," he said.

"If someone put millions and millions of pounds into research it could be done, but the point is it's not worth it."

Dr Sampson said that in his view hybrids were unlikely to be dangerous if they were brought up in the right circumstances.

"I would have thought that even a first generation hybrid which is 50% wolf and 50% dog, if it was brought up in a domestic environment it would be a domesticated animal," he said.

"We have no way of knowing at the genetic level what genes are responsible for what behavioural characteristics."

Warnings that hybrid wolves could pose a safety threat as they develop has prompted the North Devon-based former owner of a husky to question the need for new legislation on the matter.

Dennis Stow, who was involved in the world of husky racing, said that sufficient legislation existed already to safeguard against the problem posed by wolf hybrids.

"The public should not panic about every dog that they see which appears to be a wolf hybrid," he said.




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