Retaining the services of a testifying animal behavior expert witness can make the difference in whether an attorney wins their case for a dog bite victim. However, dog bite attorneys need to realize that not all animal behavior expert witnesses are equal. There are vast differences in the qualifications between individuals promoting themselves to attorneys as having expertise in animal behavior.
Not animal behavior experts are equal
Attorneys need to realize that those with expertise in dog obedience training does not equate to having knowledge and expertise in animal behavior. For example, dog trainers possess various degrees of skill in teaching a dog how to do something (e.g. sit on command). In contrast, the animal behaviorist has the depth of understanding to explain why a dog acts in the way it does. And in dog bite litigation which proceeds to trial, the jury needs explanation of why the dog acted the way it did (e.g. was the dog provoked a bite?) rather than knowing how it was trained, if it was trained at all.
Attorneys need to realize that anyone can promote themselves as having expertise in animal behavior, even in the absence of an earned degree in this field. I know of one successful dog bite expert who for years has bamboozled attorneys into thinking that he is a qualified “animal behavior expert” through memberships to organizations which allow letters after one’s name. Usually these so-called experts have taken no coursework in animal behavior at the university level, nor do these “experts” possess certification from any professional society dealing with animal behavior or dog behavior! Animal behavior experts like this may proffer opinions inconsistent with the general knowledge jurors have about the behavior of dogs.
The attorney should note that the science of animal behavior as it applies to dogs is a discipline that is taught in most major universities. And in the last 15 years the veterinary profession has expanded to include veterinarians specializing in animal behavior.
On other parts of this website, I have elaborated upon the role of the animal behavior expert witness in dog bite cases.
Expert Witness Qualifications
Below I present sites relevant that provide a general overview and guidelines to expert witness qualification. The information on these sites is not specific to the qualifications consistent with expertise in the science of animal behavior.
- Qualifying the Expert Witness: A Practical Voir Dire
- Expert Witness Requirements from SEAK
- Expert Witness Qualifications – Who is Qualified to be an Expert Witness
- Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?
- Expert witness – Wikipedia
- Testifying as an Expert Witness: Qualification & Best Practices