Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Animal Behavior Legal Consulting | ABCS, Inc.

Animal behavior legal consulting services are provided to attorneys by Richard Polsky, Ph.D.  Dr. Polsky is President of Animal Behavior Counseling Services, located in Los Angeles, California.  Dr. Polsky is a well-qualified and highly experienced animal behavior expert witness. Attorneys handling dog-related injury cases have retained Dr. Polsky on numerous occasions.

Animal behavior legal consulting
Dr. Richard Polsky provides animal behavior legal consulting services to attorneys.

Hence, if you are a dog bite attorney or if your law firm is in the midst of handling litigation involving dog behavior, then retaining the expert witness services of Dr. Polsky might benefit your case.

Meet Dr. Polsky

Dr. Polsky is an exceptionally well-qualified animal expert witness. He has over two decades of experience in consulting and assisting attorneys in the analysis of dog bites and dog related injury inflicted on people.

Dr. Polsky has been qualified as an expert witness in animal behavior in federal and state courts on over 100 occasions. He has provided animal behavioral legal services to attorneys on over 300 occasions. He is helped numerous attorneys gain favorable outcome for their clients.

In his work as legal consultant, Dr. Polsky relies on his academic training in the science of animal behavior, his hands-on experience as a certified dog behaviorist, and on the peer-reviewed scientific literature as it applies to the behavior of companion dogs.

Dr. Polsky provides the following legal consultation services:

  • Testimony and analysis in all aspects of canine behavior, including police K-9s;
  • Documentation review;
  • Temperamental evaluation the offending canine and the location where the dog bite incident occurred;
  • Report and declaration writing;
  • Consultation and advice to attorneys, help in preparing the best examination of witnesses.

Why the need for animal behavior legal consulting in dog bite litigation?

Attorneys may wonder why the need for the services an animal behavior expert? Indeed, if liability is not questioned and if damages are the only issue that remain on the table, then there may not be much need for animal behavior expert opinion.

On the other hand, animal behavior expert opinion can provide answers to the following essential questions if liability is contested.  For example:

  • Did the dog possess dangerous propensities?
  • Did the owner or keeper of the dog know about the dangerous propensities of the dog?
  • Did the landlord maintain the property in a condition to ensure public safety from a potentially dangerous dog?
  • Was the dog cared for or handled by the owner in a manner to ensure public safety?
  • Did the victim sustain an injury because of a dog-related injury or was the injury caused by some other means?
  • Was there justification for the dog bite victim to interfere in dog bite? In other words, did the victim assumed the risk of being bitten?

What is the most common animal behavior issue in dog bite lawsuits?

Without hesitation, provocation by the victim ranks highest. Willfully invited injury because of a provocative act by the plaintiff is one of the most robust defenses to counter liability. In California and Arizona, for example, if provocation can be established, a plaintiff’s recovery may be reduced in proportion to contributory fault.

What constitutes an act of provocation, is often unclear, however. It is here where an attorney can effectively use legal consultation from a dog bite expert. A dog bite expert can opine about the kinds of situations which might be provocative to a dog, given the temperament of the dog and the circumstances in which the injury happened.

Surprisingly, appellate law is sparse in defining what provocation means. Therefore, expert opinion from an animal behavior expert about dog bite provocation is needed for interpretation and to assist the trier-of-fact in determining whether provocation by the plaintiff happened in any given instance.

Animal behavior expert opinion in a pit bull mauling

An overview of an expert report Dr. Polsky provided in a criminal manner is presented below. The case involved three pit bulls, which nearly killed the victim. The owner was  charged with violating California Penal Code 399.

The questions raised pertinent to animal behavior legal analysis:

  • Did the pit bulls owned by the defendant possess dangerous propensities before the incident?
  • Did the defendant know about the danger these dogs presented before the incident?
  • Did the defendant use ordinary care in keeping these pit bulls on his property before the incident?

Fact pattern

The three pit bulls owned by the defendant resided on his property for a year before the incident. All were reproductively intact blue nose pit bulls, about five years of age.

  • The dogs escaped from the property and attacked the victim on the street outside of the gate of the defendant’s property.
  • Without provocation, these dogs together viciously attacked and mauled the victim during his evening walk.
  • By happenstance, the defendant arrived on the scene at the time of the incident and stopped the attack. This stroke of luck save the victim’s life
  • There were no reported instances in which these dogs ever attacked a human before the incident;
  • These dogs had previously escaped from the property of the defendant and were loose in the neighborhood as a pack of dogs regularly;
  • Before the incident, these dogs acted aggressively to neighbors.

Analysis and opinions

Dr. Polsky was retained by the prosecution in this case. One glaring weakness was that there were no reported instances of dog attacks by these dogs and that there were no complaints. Nonetheless, the totality of the evidence indicated:

  • The dogs possessed possess dangerous tendencies before the incident
  • The defendant must have known about the danger these dogs to presented to public safety before the incident
  • The vicious territorial attack by these dogs on the defendant was not an aberrant action in a pack of dogs with supposedly non-aggressive temperaments.
  • The incident was foreseeable this possibility must have been known by the defendant before the event.
  • The defendant failed to take meaningful action to reduce this danger these pit bulls presented to public safety.

Outcome

The victim pleaded guilty to violating CA Penal Code 399.

Important caveats about pit bulls

The above is specific to the fact pattern surrounding this particular incident. Attorneys seeking legal consultation on dog behavior must realize that not all pit bulls are vicious, nor do all pit bulls possess a danger to public safety.

Key takeaways for an attorney seeking animal behavior legal consulting services

Retaining an animal behavior expert to address specific issues, such as provocation, would likely be beneficial when liability is questioned.

The animal behavior legal consultation services provided by Dr. Polsky can help answer questions  dealing with issues about as provocation, negligence, assumption of risk, foreseeability, and whether the injury was actually caused by a dog bite.

Animal behavior 101 for dog bite attorneys

Attorney seeking legal consultation from an animal behaviorist should always question if the opinion from the expert will be based, at least in part, on evidence from the scientific literature about the behavior in companion dogs.

In this regard, the attorneys can educate themselves through review of the literature listed below:

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  Animal behavior legal consulting services are provided by Richard Ph.D.  Dr. Polsky welcomes inquiries from attorneys seeking the services of a dog expert witness.