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Hybrids or wolves? Versionsdiffer in bitten-child case

Post indepedendent File Photo/Kelley Cox According to court documents, there are conflicting statements as to whether these animals are wolves or wolf hybrids.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Court documents reveal conflicting statements about whether the animal that bit 7-year-old Grace McSwain is a wolf hybrid or a full-bred wolf.But Jim Wagner, the animal’s owner, insists all three of his pets are wolf hybrids. The court documents, which were released this week, also shed light onto the events leading to the bite.McSwain suffered serious facial injuries May 3 when she was bitten in the face while getting ready to take pictures of the animals for a school project. The animals were enclosed in a fenced area in Wagner’s backyard, at 412 11th St., at the time of the attack.McSwain, along with her mother, Chris McSwain, and sister, Devan McSwain, were on Wagner’s porch near the fence when the bite occurred. According to a Glenwood Springs police report, one of the three animals leaped up toward Grace McSwain without warning or provocation and bit her in the left side of her face.

According to witness statements and police reports on the incident, both Wagner, 57, and the animals’ caretaker, Lisa Ruoff, 32, originally told police that the animal that bit McSwain is a full-bred wolf. That statement, however, was later changed, the reports said. “As I was reading the letter, I noticed a discrepancy in the letter from what I was being told by Lisa Ruoff,” Glenwood Springs police officer Paul Pedersen wrote.”Lisa Ruoff told me that the two dogs we took to the (Colorado Animal Rescue) unit were full-bred wolves, and in her letter she states that the two dogs are hybrid wolves. I had also talked to the owner of the dogs by phone, who told me that the two dogs were full-bred wolves.”Ruoff was charged with a vicious dog violation on the night of the attack because she was taking care of three animals at the time. Wagner was away on business at the time, and was later charged with one count of having a vicious dog and three counts of failure to vaccinate. The animals had been given rabies shots, but the manufacturer of the shots does not guarantee its effectiveness on wolves or on wolf hybrids. Events leading to attackRuoff’s original written statement on the incident was given to police on May 3, shortly after the attack. She wrote that Chris McSwain and two of her kids came by Wagner’s house “to see if they could take pictures of the wolves.”

“I told them the wolves were not good with kids, but if they wanted to come back after (the wolves) were done eating, they could take pictures from the front gate,” Ruoff wrote. When the McSwains came back, Ruoff was talking on the phone, but she indicated “to go ahead and take pictures from the porch,” the statement said. “Within 30 seconds, they came screaming into the house ‘Call 911.’ I called 911 and placed a kitchen towel over the girl’s face, which was bleeding. They then took the daughter to the hospital,” Ruoff wrote. Five days later, Ruoff dropped off a longer typewritten statement to police, but in that statement, she referred to the animals as “hybrids.”Chris McSwain’s written statement described the attack from her point of view. In it, she stated that after the animals were finished eating, she, Grace and Devan came back to the house to try and get some pictures. “We stopped approximately one to two feet from the fence and we were discussing picture options. … The wolves came up to the fence at a medium to fast pace appearing interested, but not seeming aggressive or upset.”Suddenly, and without any noise, one of the large, white wolves, the one in front of me, jumped up and lunged with his head and neck over the top of the fence. His back half stayed behind the fence. I saw his right paw on Grace’s left cheek and his snout was on her face. It appeared he was biting her. I pushed his paw back. The wolf went out of my sight,” she wrote. Two of Wagner’s three animals, Zeus and Oscar, remained at Colorado Animal Rescue in Spring Valley until last week, but have since been moved to a temporary home, Wagner said.



Although only one of the animals bit McSwain, two were originally taken to CARE because authorities were unable to determine which of them attacked McSwain. Wagner’s other dog still lives with him. Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.comWhat’s next?Jim Wagner and Lisa Ruoff are scheduled to appear in Glenwood Springs Municipal CourtWhen: 1 p.m. TuesdayWhere: Glenwood Springs Municipal Court in City Hall, 101 W. 8th Street


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