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‘Coyotes’ frolicking around Warwick were actually dog hybrids named Bella and Libby

The Warwick Police Department circulated this warning on social media about a pair of coyotes frolicking around the city. But they were actually someone's dogs, perhaps dog-wolf hybrids, the mayor says.Warwick Police Department

WARWICK, R.I. — For days, what appeared to be two rare black coyotes captivated Warwick as they romped around the city — majestic, beautiful, wily. Facebook posts from the city police department only seemed to stoke people’s interest, notwithstanding the warnings against feeding or approaching them.

The only problem is that they weren’t actually coyotes. They were dogs, and potentially dog-wolf hybrids. They also have names: Bella and Libby. The dogs, a bit groggy from being hit with tranquilizer darts but otherwise no worse for the wear, were taken into custody and brought to the Warwick animal shelter Thursday afternoon.


At a news conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon, which was streamed live on Facebook by TV stations, Mayor Frank Picozzi defended the city’s response.

“There’s no playbook for something like this,” Picozzi said.

But, he acknowledged, the buzz had created something like a tourist attraction, clogging Oakland Beach roads. Also, some people were calling him “Mayor Coyote.”

“It turned out well,” he said. “Ill take all the teasing you want.”

Picozzi said a DNA test would have to confirm what the dogs actually are. ABC 6 reporter Daniel Coates said in a social media post that the owner told him the animals were 6-month-old German shepherd-husky-wolf mixes.

It’s unclear what will happen to Bella and Libby. Dog-wolf hybrids are illegal to keep in Rhode Island, according to Michael Healey, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Management. DEM was not involved in the dogs being identified as coyotes, Healey said, but provided information about what to do if coyotes are seen.

The story of how they came to be released in the first place remains somewhat unclear. But two people were arrested and face potential charges related to animal cruelty and abandonment charges, Warwick Police Chief Bradford Connor said.


City authorities said the original owner had been living in a home in the city, but moved to Woonsocket recently and couldn’t bring the dogs. The dogs’ owner left them with people still living in the home. Those two people, the ones who face charges, set the dogs free, police said. Police received information that there were 10 or 12 other dogs living in the home, which has now been boarded up and condemned, Connor said.

Authorities are now working on getting those 10 or 12 dogs the care they need. They were of various breeds, Connor said.

The original owner isn’t facing charges at this time, Connor said.

Various animal control agencies and the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped take the dogs in safely, city officials said.

Earl Newman, a special agent with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, used an air rifle to hit the dogs with the tranquilizer telazol. Within minutes, they became lethargic, although they still took precautions, like muzzling them.

Assuming they’re hybrids, Bella and Libby would need to be brought to a state that allows them, Newman said. He’s confident they’ll be able to place them. Until recently, this sort of thing was a rare occurrence, but the agency has dealt with several instances of hybrid dogs just this year, Newman said. The concern about these species is that there is no approved rabies vaccine for them.


“Suddenly they seem to be the vogue species for people to get,” Newman said. “It is creating some issues for us.”

This story has been updated with information from Warwick Police Chief Bradford Connor, and Earl Newman, a special agent with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.