Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Animal behavior expert on dog bite attacks

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Cane Corso fatal dog attack in Italy – Stripping off of clothing

Cane corso fatal dog attacks on people in the United States happen at disproportionately high rates.  I have reviewed some of these instances in previous posts on this website.  

Not surprisingly, given the nature of some Cane Corsos, fatal dog attacks outside the USA by Cane Corsos have likewise happened.  Some individuals within the breed possess strong genetic proclivities to display of varies kinds of aggression, particularly to unfamiliar people entering or approaching their territory.

Forensic scientists in Italy published one such occurrence involving Cane Corsos (D. DiDonato, et. al. Cane Corso attack: Two fatal cases. Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology 2006, 2, 137-142).  The study reports a single case history. The study did not portray the Cane Corso as an inherently dangerous breed, but rather its purpose was to exemplify the forensic techniques used for the collection of evidence in fatal dog attacks through the use of the single case history. In this instance, the fatal dog attack under review happened in a small town in southern Italy. The victims were a 70-year-old lady and her 76-year-old husband. Three Cane Corso dogs resided in the home of the victims. Forensic evidence, such as samples of hair, blood, and saliva, showed that only two of the three dogs took part in the killing, however.

Cane Corso fatal dog attack – Stripping off of clothing

Findings from this study in Italy are consistent with results reported by Patronek, in their comprehensive study of 256 fatal dog attacks in the United States.  For example, victims are often elderly and frequently killed by non-restrained, familiar dogs in the territory of the dog.  Many other characteristics common to fatal dog attacks were reported by Patronek, et. al.

Patronek, did not mention a common occurrence in fatal dog attacks, however.  Namely, the dog strips the clothing off of the victim.  This happened in the Italian study.  Moreover, in my studies of fatal dog attacks, I have found that this commonly happens to the point where the deceased victim is found partially or almost entirely naked.  For example, this occurred in the San Francisco dog mauling involving Diane Whipple by one or possibly two adult Presa Canario dogs.  And this finding was also noted by Borchelt, et. al. in the case histories presented in their widely read report.

I believe clothing stripping may be intentional.  How this can be interpreted from the perspective of the dog or the significance it has for the analysis of dog bite cases is not clear, however.  Stripped clothing obviously allows the dog to make direct contact with the person’s flesh, necessary for consumption.  And in some fatal dog attacks, as noted by Borchelt, et. al., consumption of the victim’s flesh happens quite frequently.  Nonetheless, the stripping off of clothing is not limited to those instances in which the victim is killed.  In my work as a dog bite expert, I have found that clothing stripping may happen when severe dog bite injury, but no fatality, is inflicted to different parts of a victim’s body.

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