Howling Woods Farms wants you to know: There’s no such thing as a Big Bad Wolf Dog.
The 10-acre animal rescue and education center in Jackson shelters dozens of wolf dogs—dogs with pure wolf DNA in their recent background. The mission of the 20-year-old nonprofit is to dispel damaging myths about wolves while also educating visitors about their true nature. Contrary to their reputation as aggressive hunters, wolves are social, attention-loving and empathetic. They mate for life, and in the wild will take in abandoned pups and raise them as their own.
Howling Woods houses between 15 and 20 wolf dogs at a time. Every resident of the farm is a rescue; none were bred there. On the hour-long tour of the facility (available by appointment only; visit their website), guests are encouraged to get close to the animals. Selfies are welcomed.
In keeping with the farm’s mission of education, handlers bring some of the more sociable animals to fairs, festivals, schools and private events, where they interact with a fascinated public.
Wolf dogs require a lot of maintenance and need plenty of room for exercise. Their size varies depending on the mix. They can jump up to 13 feet high and run as fast as 40 miles per hour. Each requires a specialized diet, depending on its percentage of wolf DNA. Because they are pack animals, in domestic situations they will likely languish without a companion, wolf or otherwise. As a result, many wolf dogs are surrendered by their owners to sanctuaries or abandoned.
A number of the wolf dogs at Howling Woods are available for adoption. The farm follows a strict adoption process that can take months to complete.
“The majority of people who get wolf dogs as pets don’t know the facts,” says Michelle Persiano, an employee and tour guide. “When people are interested in adopting our wolf dogs, we want to make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons.”
It doesn’t take much for the farm to erupt in a chorus of soulful howls; it can be prompted by sirens, cars, or even the sounds of nearby construction workers.
“They’ll howl at pretty much anything,” Persiano says, “except a full moon.”