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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California dog bite expert witness – Legal services of Richard Polsky, Ph.D.

California dog bite expert witness
Richard Polsky pictured with his late border collie, Swoozy, provides expert witness services to attorneys.

This page introduces California dog bite expert Richard Polsky, Ph.D. to attorneys seeking a dog bite expert witness.

Overview

  • Dr. Polsky is an experienced expert witness. He has been retained by dog bite attorneys on over 300 occasions in both civil and criminal matters.
  • Services include but not limited to report writing, dog and property inspections and deposition and trial testimony.
  • Attorneys are encouraged to visit other relevant pages on this website to gain greater understanding of how the expert services of Dr. Polsky might benefit their case.  For example, see the following:

Tips on choosing an animal behavior expert witness;
        Animal behavior science and dog expert witness testimony;
        The animal behavior expert: Help for dog bite attorneys;
        Daubert and the California canine expert witness;
        What is the job of the dog bite expert witness?

About Dogexpert.com

Dogexpert.com is the creation of Dr. Polsky. This website is the oldest, most frequently visited and the most comprehensive site on the internet that covers interface between dog behavior and dog bite law. Attorneys litigating dog bite cases can find information on issues frequently occurring in dog bite litigation, such as provocation, negligence, foreseeability of an dog bite incident, assumption of risk and landlord liability.

With the above in mind, nine examples are presented which illustrate how testimony and the opinions from an animal behavior expert might benefit an attorney litigating a dog bite case. 

Example #1: Assumption of risk in California

The first example is about assumption of risk. The incident happened when the plaintiff, a 60-year-old lady, was house-dog bite expert legalsitting for the defendant who owned an 13-year-old poodle.

The plaintiff was attacked by the defendant’s dog several days after she started her house-sitting duties. The incident happened when she reached down to pick up one of the dog’s toys.  Her bite injuries, although minor at first, eventually became infected and required extensive medical treatment.

Discovery revealed that this this dog had shown aggressive tendencies in certain situations previously, such as around around food and its toys.

Prior to the start of the plaintiff’s house sitting duties, according to the defense, she was  told about the dog’s aggressive tendencies. The defense also contended that the plaintiff must have known about the dog’s  aggressive tendencies because she had cared for this dog on previous occasions.

Moreover, the defense contended that the plaintiff’s version of how the incident happened was suspect.  the defendant suspected that the plaintiff must have provoked the dog in some fashion and the incident had nothing to do with her reaching for one of the dog’s toys. Dr. Polsky was retained by the defense to reconstruct how the incident likely happened and to opine about the issue of provocation. Defense acknowledged that the California dog bite statue applied in this case, but believe that mitigating circumstances needed to be considered, such as assumption of risk and provocation.

Example #2: Fatal dog mauling in California by two Rottweilers

Rottweilers have been frequently involved in fatal dog attacks. This should not be used to characterize the Rottweiler breed, however.

Dr. Polsky was retained by the prosecution in a case that involved fatal mauling of a 7 year-old boy by two Rottweiler-type dogs. The defendant in this case was an ex-police officer who the maintain these two dogs, along with another Rottweiler dog, on his property in the town of Red Bluff, a rural community in Northern California.

The incident happened when the victim entered the backyard of the property adjacent to the defendants. A chain-link fence separated the defendant’s yard from the yard where the boy had entered. The Rottweilers were loose in the defendant’s yard.  At trial, it was established that the defendant’s chain link fence needed repair and this allowed the dog to slip under the fence and attack the victim. This attack was eventually stopped by the victim’s father who came running from across the street after hearing a commotion. Dr. Polsky testified at trial. The defendant was found guilty.

The prosecuting attorney in this case, Gregg Cohen, had been involved in other dog mauling cases. Attorney Cohen is best known for the impetus in formulating California’s Cody’s Law.  Cody’s Law makes it a felony to own a dog with vicious propensities that a severely injures or kills a person.

Example #3: Fatal dog mauling in South Carolina

fatal dog attack expert
About 30 people are killed by dogs annually in the USA. A majority of the victims are the elderly or the very young.

Dr. Polsky was retained as a dog bite expert by the defense in an incident which involved the fatal mauling of a disabled man walking to a Seven-Eleven store at about 4 a.m. in a rural section of South Carolina.

The victim was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs. Prosecution argued that two of these dogs belong to the defendant. Both were pit bull type dogs. The incident happened about a quarter-mile from the defendant’s home. The defendant testified that all his dogs were in his house at the time of the incident. Behavioral issues in this case centered on the temperament of the defendant’s dogs, the territorial nature of dogs and the likelihood that the defendant’s dogs were involved in the attack. Dr. Polsky testified at trail. The defendant was acquitted of manslaughter.

Example #4: Fatal dog attack in Wyoming

In this case, a 1 y.o. child was mauled to death by a reproductively intact male Rottweiler. The fact pattern as follows: The child was left unattended in the front yard of its home.  Across the street the defendant maintained her Rottweiler on a chain attached to her trailer. The chain was long enough to allow the Rottweiler proximity to the street.

The incident happened when the child wondered from its yard into the street, thereby coming within striking distance of the Rottweiler. Prosecution pressed charges on the belief that the owners had full awareness of the dangerous nature of their Rottweiler. The defendants acknowledged that the dog would growl at unfamiliar people but they had no reason to believe the dog would go beyond these warning displays.

Discovery in this case revealed that at the time of the incident the mother was doing laundry and the father was sleeping. The mother placed her child in the front yard to play with the belief that the gate to her fenced front yard was closed. Several weeks prior to trial a plea-bargain was reached. Manslaughter charges were dropped in favor of misdemeanor charges and probation for the defendants.

Example #5: Fatal dog mauling in Wisconsin

This case involved the fatal dog mauling of a 10 y.o. girl by six Rottweilers. The incident happened when the owner of the dogs left her daughter alone with the dogs in order to do some shopping.

Dr. Polsky was retained by the prosecution to opine about pack mentality and about those factors particular to this case which should have made the defendant know that her dogs were dangerous by nature and that an incident like this was foreseeable.

Example #6: Fatal dog mauling in Illinois 

This well-publicized case in Chicago involved the fatal attack by a pack of pit bull type dogs on a female jogger in Dan Ryan Park in January 2003.

Dr. Polsky was retained by the plaintiff in civil action against the city of Chicago to opine about the danger feral dogs, particularly when roaming in a dog pack, present to the public in a park setting. Plaintiff brought action against for not dealing with the dangerous conditions that existed in the park due to their negligence. This case settled prior to trial.

Example #7: Negligence by Petco

Petco promotes policies that favor their business interests at the expense of safety for customers who visit their stores.

This case involved a Jack Russell terrier brought to a Petco store for grooming. While being bathed the dog inflicted a serious facial bite to the groomer.

The groomer filed suit against the dog owner under California’s strict liability law. A complaint was also filed against Petco for the negligent manner in which they managed, trained, and provided instruction to their groomers.

A central issue focused on the standard of care by Petco. Discovery revealed that Petco discouraged the use of muzzles during grooming because using them would project an unfavorable image to their customers.

Example #8: Child abuse or dog attack?

Dr. Polsky was retained by the prosecution in a case involving  felony charges of aggravated child abuse against a Gainesville police officer.

The case involved  the officer’s two-month-old infant who sustained broken ribs, a lacerated liver and ruptures to internal organs. There were an absence of puncture wounds on the child and an absence of a significant amount of external bleeding. The officer claimed that his dog a seven-year-old male, castrated Dutch Shepherd,  caused the incident.

The defendant stated that prior to the incident his dog had gotten on well with the infant and that there was an absence of any previous incidences of aggression toward anyone by this dog. Nonetheless, medical examiners concluded that the internal injuries were the result of the child being squeezed by his father, and not a dog attack.

The incident happened in early afternoon within a few hours after the police officer had returned from working a night shift, and at the time of the incident he was sleeping. The prosecution argued that the officer acting out of frustration, tried to physically quiet a crying child, and the infant’s injuries were inflicted in this matter

Defense arguments were that the seat the child was in, which rocked slightly and made a vibration noise, possibly triggered the attack, or that the dog simply was engaging in rough play with the child.

Dr. Polsky testified at trial about the validity of these explanations and about other factors usually found associated with severe dog attacks. The jury acquitted the officer. Read further about this case and the unjust verdict.

Example #9: Wolf hybrid attack in British Columbia

Wolf hybrid bite expert
The Court ruled that wolf hybrids are not domesticated animals and hence by law they are inherently dangerous.

Dr. Polsky was retained by the plaintiff in British Columbia to opine about the domestication of wolf hybrids. The incident in question happened when the plaintiff entered the front yard in which the wolf hybrid was contained. She was given permission to enter the property.

The case was not so much about the foreseeability the wolf hybrid’s actions. Rather, the Court sought to determine whether wolf hybrids were inherently dangerous based on whether hybrids were domesticated. Dr. Polsky testified at trial. Dr. Polsky’s opinions and the court’s ruling can be found here.

Conclusion

The above represent a sample of Dr. Polsky’s work. Dr. Polsky welcomes inquires from attorneys seeking the services of a dog bite expert witness.

 

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