BERGEN BEACH — A Brooklyn heating company executive had to give up his pet wolfdog of 11 years after his neighbors howled to the city about him harboring the outlawed animal.
Robert Traktman, 65, shipped his beloved companion Angel off to a wolfdog sanctuary in North Carolina in March after a neighbor complained to 311 about him keeping the 60-pound hybrid canine locked up in a cage in the backyard of his Bergen Beach home.
Traktman had owned Angel since he picked her up as a pup in 2003, according to Traktman’s friend Nancy Brown, who runs the sanctuary, Full Moon Farm. Angel is now living on the 17-acre property in the Blue Ridge Mountains until Traktman can figure out a way to reunite with her, Brown told DNAinfo New York.
“It’s a shame that she’s here and having to be in a sanctuary when she should be sleeping on her owner’s bed,” Brown said.
A wolfdog, as the name implies, is usually produced by mating a wolf with a wolf-like dog such as a Siberian huskie. However, most wolfdogs are generations removed from the initial crossbreed, Brown said.
While legal in some states, wolfdogs are banned in New York and are considered “dangerous wildlife.” They’re among a long list of animals — from bears and tigers to pythons and snakes to pigs and falcons — that the city Health Department has banned as pets.
Despite the broad ban, illegal animals keep popping up in the urban jungle. The city’s 311 system received 251 complaints between Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015, about residents harboring prohibited pets, according to records obtained by DNAinfo through a Freedom of Information Law request.
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The gripes ranged from a Bronx resident housing an alligator, a large rat and an iguana to a wannabe farmer on Staten Island keeping goats in a backyard.
Some 311 complaints were about residents turning city wildlife into pets, including a Ridgewood mechanic keeping a cardinal in a cage, a Rockaway resident harboring seagulls and a Midwood resident giving a home to baby raccoons.
Half of all the complaints were about neighbors keeping roosters and chickens.
One plucky entrepreneur even used public property along a Metro-North rail line in Norwood to raise 50 chickens for cock-fighting, according to a complaint. Animal Care and Control workers seized the fowl about seven months ago, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
After the city receives a 311 complaint about an alleged illegal animal, the Health Department sends an inspector to investigate. The inspector will issue a violation if the tip is true.
Traktman wasn’t the only animal lover who had his heart broken when a city Health Department inspector got involved.
In Queens, an animal enthusiast had to part ways with three caviidae, South American rodents that resemble miniature kangaroos.
Jon, 27, who spoke on the condition that DNAinfo withhold his last name, received a summons in March for having the three caviidae and two chipmunks.
A neighbor complained to the city about the animals in December and March, records show. In the December 311 complaint, the neighbor mistook the caviidae for kangaroo and griped the animals “are often seen on other people’s lawn area.”
One neighbor was amazed by the size of Jon’s menagerie, which also includes two dogs and exotic birds.
“I think he thinks he’s Noah of Noah’s ark,” the neighbor told DNAinfo. “He’s got a boy and girl of every animal.”
A day after receiving the violation in March, Jon sent the illegal animals to live on a farm upstate.
“I raised them from the time they were nursing,” Jon said of the caviidae, which he bought from a breeder a year ago. “They looked to me like a parent. It was hard on me, but it was very hard on them.”
Jon, who still owns two dogs and exotic birds, said the city’s animal ban is too restrictive.
“People need to start being open-minded,” he said, noting that caviidae are sweet, loving and low-maintenance pets. “The truth is there is a whole array of species that make excellent pets.”
Nancy Brown said that the there is also a misperception about wolfdogs as dangerous animals. She said 85 percent of them are domesticated and make great pets.
She started Full Moon Farm, a nonprofit that relies on volunteers and donations, to take in wolfdogs that cannot be placed in homes. Many of the 59 wolfdogs currently living at her sanctuary are from animal control agencies and owners in crisis.
Traktman’s wolfdog is an agouti, or tawny, color. Brown described her as a “sweet girl.”
“My volunteers just love her,” she said.
Brown has known Traktman since he bought Angel in 2003. He’s now a board member of Full Moon.
The 311 complaint against Traktman was made on Aug. 2, 2014. A Health Department inspector twice went to Traktman's home in September but was unable to gain access to the property.
Brown said Traktman finally sent Angel to Full Moon in March, when he sold his Bergen Beach home. She declined to say where in the city he currently lived.
“It’s a sin and a travesty that some jerk took it upon themselves thinking that they were God,” Brown said, referring to the neighbor who snitched to the city about Angel. “He loves this animal.”