Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Dr. Richard Polsky - The Dog Expert

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DNA analysis used in Florida deadly dog attack

Six dogs were seized from a home in the Goulds section of Miami  following a deadly dog attack on a four-year-old old boy on August 13, 2014. The incident happened after the toddler USA State Map Floridawandered into the backyard of the property where the dogs were confined. The boy, was discovered after having been reported missing had been visiting his father who rented the property.

 

Three of the six dogs seized were adult, and  there were three puppies. Authorities believe that the adults were the ones involved in the attack, although at the time of this posting DNA testing is being conducted to confirm the suspicion.

 

Early reports  covering the incident state that neighbors were afraid of the dogs but animal control had never received complaints about them. Reports also indicate that one of the adults was a pit bull, a type of dog that has been outlawed for years in Miami-Dade County. The other two adults were described as mixed Labrador x pit bulls.

 

Miami-Dade County continues to enforce laws against the ownership of pit bulls, despite the fact that a “pit bull” is not a breed of dog.  Controversy also exists about the reliability of identifying the breed of the dog solely through visual inspection, apparently as it has been done for quite some time in Miami-Dade County.  Apparently, county officials have become cognizant of the dubious nature of making identification through visual inspection and are now utilizing DNA analysis.

 

Nonetheless, it may be questionable if DNA analysis can provide  decidedly more accurate information about the breed of a dog, particularly if the dog visually appears to be of a mixed breed. The development of techniques of using DNA analysis for breed identification purposes are still in their early development, and commercial DNA kits provide only a broad generalized representation of the dog’s genetic background. Hence, the reliability of this technique, particularly when applied to mixed breed dogs, can be called into question.  This concern may not hold true for DNA analysis utilizing techniques that are noncommercially based, however.

 

Also note that in recent years there has been a trend in the USA to move away from laws targeting specific breeds. This turnaround is the result of the realization that enforcing breed specific legislation is costly and that this kind of legislation does not reduce the number of dog bites.  Nonetheless, Miami-Dade County, along with city of Denver and the Canadian province of Ontario, continue to employ outright bans on “pit bull” type dogs. Many legislatures who support BSL believe that when a pit bull type dog attacks the injuries inflicted to a person are likely to be far greater when compared with the injuries caused by other large and muscular breeds.  The interested reader should review a recent study which supports this  belief  (Bini, J. (2011). Mortality, mauling, and maiming by vicious dogs. Annuals of Surgery, 253, 791–797).

 

Animal behavior dog bite expert witness, Richard Polsky, PhD, has successfully served Florida attorneys both in criminal and civil matters.  He is available for consultation in cases that require animal behavior expert opinion.