After a dog escaped from his home, his family were relieved when animal control finally called to say that they had him. However, their happiness was short-lived when they learned that the officers didn’t plan to give them their pet back. And the reason why shocked everyone.
Tracy Abbato lives in the city of Aurora in Colorado. She shares her home with her three children and their beloved trio of dogs, named Mayhem, Brandy and Capone, who the family dote on.
The Abbatos in fact consider the pets to be part of their family. So when Capone jumped their fence and escaped in February 2017, they were extremely concerned. But when Aurora Animal Control officers picked the dog up later that day, their worries no doubt melted away.
However, little did Tracy and her children know, their nightmare was just beginning. That was because when the family arrived at the shelter to collect Capone that day, the officers sent them away. And the reason why would come as a major shock to Tracy and her children.
“They say he is a hybrid-wolf now and don’t want to release [him] back to us because he is an exotic animal,” Tracy explained to AOL in March 2017. According to animal control officers, this meant that she had broken the law by harboring a dangerous exotic animal.
The officers’ accusations came as a surprise to Tracy. She had first set eyes on Capone some ten years ago at the Adams County Animal Shelter where staff told her that he was German shepherd mix. She had had no reason to doubt them. Not least of all because her vet had said the same thing.
Since then, 11-year-old Capone had shown himself to be nothing but a loving family pet. He was certainly not the wild beast that animal control were making him out to be. In fact, he was so mellow that he would often curl up with Tracy’s children to go to sleep.
“I didn’t even suspect him of being a wolf,” Tracy told Time in March 2017. “He’s not aggressive,” she added. “Capone is a very mellow, laid back dog. He’s a typical dog. He’s a family member. He doesn’t bother anybody.”
To get to the bottom of Capone’s origins, the animal control officers ordered a DNA test. However, while they waited for the result, the dog would have to remain in their care. And before long, five weeks had passed since the family had last seen him at home.
And every day that passed took its toll on the Abbatos. “It’s hard for me,” Tracy admitted in an interview with Fox 31 in March 2017. “It’s hard for my kids. He’s a family member. We’ve had him for almost 10 years. We miss him.”
Indeed, the family’s separation from Capone was especially tough for her three children. “It’s been real painful,” her 11-year-old daughter Ciara told Fox 31. “I hope they let us keep him because he’s really special to me.”
However, there was no guarantee that animal control officers would return Capone to his rightful owners. If the DNA test proved that he was indeed part-wolf, then the city could ship him off to a wolf sanctuary. Alternatively, they might put him down if they failed to find a suitable shelter.
In her emotional interview with Time, Tracy said, “It’s heartbreaking. He’s like a child to me. That’s like saying we’re going to put your kid to sleep. They become family members to you. Anybody who has a dog understands.”
When approached about the Abbatos’ case, Aurora city spokesperson, Michael Bryant, told Time, “It’s not just a wolf-hybrid issue by itself.” In fact, animal control officers also believed that Capone was an aggressive animal. Furthermore, Tracy was accused of failing to secure a pet license or to vaccinate him against rabies, and she was facing fines for letting Capone run loose.
However, Tracy maintained that she was a responsible pet owner. “I don’t understand,” she told AOL. “This dog has a loving, caring home. People who abuse dogs, leave them outside in two-degree weather, how do they still have their dogs?”
So while she and her family awaited Capone’s DNA test, Tracy decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign. Using GoFundMe, the mom-of-three wrote that she wanted to bring Capone home. But to do so she needed the help of her fellow animal lovers.
“I just want my baby to be back at home with his loving family where he belongs,” Tracy explained. “I will do anything to make that happen. This money is going towards legal fees, a six-foot fence and shelter costs to help get Capone home.”
Tracy was looking for $10,000 in order to fund Capone’s return. And before long, she had raised over half of that sum. Dozens of people also sent her messages on the crowdfunding page – and the majority of them were in support of the Abbatos.
“My husband just came home and told me this story/nightmare. I cannot believe how any human being can think or do this to a beautiful dog which is 10 years old,” wrote Brian Gutierrez. “I pray you get your baby back home.”
In the end, the DNA test proved once and for all that Capone was not a wolf hybrid. Later, animal control officers returned him home to the Abbatos. To celebrate the good news, the dog’s family posted a picture of their joyful reunion on GoFundMe. And they couldn’t have looked happier.