Cry of the Wolves

These rescued animals needed protection -- from their own sanctuary

As for the $224,000 judgment in the bite case, that was all her attorney's fault because he hadn't made her aware of the trial. Ott blames the distemper outbreak on Montgomery County Animal Control, saying the animals became infected when it temporarily seized them from her in 2002. Shelter officials say the NAWA pack left its facility healthy and that animals would be euthanized if they showed any signs of distemper upon entry.

As for the eviction and the underlying troubles, those were all engineered as revenge by her long-standing enemies -- the breeders, she argues.

The wolves, however, wound up being spread out across the country, with many going to a sanctuary 8,700 feet up in the mountains of Colorado. The rescuers were others in the wolf conservation movement. Representatives giving medical aid said they helped 20 NAWA wolves and one cougar, many suffering from high temperatures, dehydration and anemia. All were treated for parasites (at least one had hookworm), and the facility was a mess.

A volunteer kisses her favorite wolf, Amani.
Photo courtesy of Lori Matthews
A volunteer kisses her favorite wolf, Amani.
Ott at her Spring home
Daniel Kramer
Ott at her Spring home

Animal Planet filmed a portion of the removal of the wolves for its show The Jeff Corwin Experience. Host Corwin noted, "This is a supposed wolf sanctuary, but it's gone awry."

Ott's USDA license has been revoked. She says she's scouting property outside Texas for her next reservation. And she's writing a book to set the record straight, she adds. "I think that I'm entitled to tell my side of the story, but I want to do it in such a way that has so much credibility that it would be impossible for them to stand up," she says about her enemies. "When I come in swinging this time, they won't have a leg to stand on."


Tammy Moore, the volunteer who nearly lost her right hand from the wolf bite, scoffs at claims that Ott has any credibility left. "But she truly did love the wolves. In a screwed-up kind of way, she truly did think she was doing the best for the animals."

Hart, the NAWA reservation director, says Ott was an awful supervisor and bookkeeper in her organization for the wolves. "But did she try to do everything she could to help them? Yes," Hart says.

Like others, Hart had been promised pay for her services. It never came. She lost her car when she could no longer make payments. Then she gave up her house for the same reason.

Why she stuck around, even as things were falling apart, is not exactly clear. She still has Cikala, the stray wolfdog that led her to NAWA, but these days she works as a receptionist for an international freight company. She's cooped up in a clean office near the airport -- a long way from the muddy quagmire she left behind in Conroe. Her wallet still holds a picture of her favorite wolf, one of those killed by the distemper.

"They weren't a cause for me," she says. "They were just animals I loved." It is a simple explanation in a complicated story.

"I had a choice. The animals didn't have a choice." She leaves it at that.

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