Woman rejects plea bargain in wolf-hybrid case

Sexton says she doesn't want her case to be used against hybrid owners

Posted: Friday, December 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE - The first person to be charged under a new law banning the advertisement of wolf hybrids for sale is fighting the state in court.

JoGenia Sexton placed newspaper ads for wolf dogs in August. She was to be arraigned in District Court on Wednesday. Just before the hearing began, special prosecutor Jack Schmidt presented her with an offer to accept a reduced fine of $200.

She rejected it and pleaded not guilty. Sexton, 47, admits advertising her malamute-husky-German-shepherd pups as wolf dogs, but said brain surgeries impaired her decision-making.

"I would like to dismiss this case. My dogs are not wolves," Sexton told Judge William Fuld. "The state is going after me because they want to get to other people that have wolves."

Later, she said she declined Schmidt's offer because she did not want the state to use her case to make it easier to prosecute wolf hybrid owners, especially Wolf Country USA owner Werner Shuster. Wolf Country advertises wolf cubs on the Internet from its Palmer compound.

Shuster accompanied Sexton and her friends to the arraignment. He has made it clear that he will fight the new regulation. A state legislator told him he won't be bothered "as long as I don't call my wolves dogs," he said.

The law bans advertising, in addition to existing bans on sales and possession of wolf hybrids. Owners can keep their pets as long as they spay or neuter them, license and vaccinate them, and implant them with an identifying microchip. By banning advertising, the state hopes to get around the fact that it's virtually impossible to genetically distinguish a wolf from a dog.

The case against Sexton is straightforward, Schmidt said after the arraignment: She advertised wolf hybrids. He said Sexton's case has no bearing on a case against Shuster.

The state might file charges against Wolf Country, based at least in part on its advertising, Schmidt said. "We've asked him several times to terminate it."

Sexton has been charged with a violation, which carries a maximum $300 fine. Advertising wolf hybrids can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, however, and bring as much as a $5,000 fine and a year in jail. Schmidt said Sexton was not running a commercial operation and did not deserve such a stiff penalty.

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