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”

Dog bite fatalities in California at record levels in 2013

Dog bite fatalities in California are at record high levels through June 2013. Four people have been killed in California because of dog bite injury from January-June 2013.


  • In April, the 38-year-old lady in Stockton, California was found dead in a neighbor’s driveway after being attacked by pit bull owned by the neighbor.
  • In February, a 91-year-old lady was killed by the family pit bull in a Hemet, California motel where her family was staying prior to relocating to a new home.
  • In May, a 63-year-old lady in Little Rock, California out for a morning walk was mauled to death by a pack of loose pit bulls.
  • In June, a six-year-old boy was fatally attacked by the family’s two-year-old pit bull mix dog in Union City California. The boy who might have been roughhousing with the dog, suffered a fatal dog bite to the top of his head.

Approximately three dog bite fatalities happen in California on an annual basis; hence, the rate for 2013 has been extraordinary. For the United States as a whole, there have been a total of 15 dog bite fatalities in the first half of the year, January-June, 2013. Besides the four fatalities mentioned above for California, two dog bite fatalities have happened in Texas, two in South Carolina, two in Georgia, and one each in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Iowa.


Texas is another American state with a high rate of dog bite fatalities. More dog bite fatalities happen in Texas than anywhere else in the USA.


However, fatal dog attacks are not unique to the United States. In other countries people are killed by dogs, but not of the same rate as in the United States.  For example, I recently read a report where a man was killed by two Argentino dogos in China. In Britain, there have been several fatal dog maulings in 2013. The British seems very sensitive to this problem, given the sensationalize new headlines that appear in the British tabloids whenever a person is killed by a dog.


Rates for dog bite fatality differed between countries.  For example, the United States has the highest death rate from dog bite fatality at 0.05-0.07/100,000, with Canada second highest at 0.007/100,000 and Australia the lowest at 0.004/100,000.


Dog bite fatalities happen worldwide, and this is not surprising given that the biological factors controlling aggression are similar despite where the dog resides, or where the dog is bred. However, incident rates are likely affected by cultural attitudes and the presence of law which regulates potentially killer dogs such as pit bulls, wolf hybrids, mastiffs, and rottweilers. The United States has the highest rate of dog bite fatalities, and it also has the highest rate of death caused by gun violence. Why the high rates? The most likely explanation is the culture of violence that exists in the USA. America’s violent culture separates it from most other civilized countries, and this factor probably also affects the rate at which people in the United States are killed by dogs.

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