Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Fatal Dog Attacks in the United States


Current year statistics 2016: 25 fatal dog attacks in the USA



Previous year dog bite related fatalities (DBRF):Aggressive dog


  • 2005 – 28 DBRF
  • 2006 – 31 DBRF
  • 2007 – 35 DBRF
  • 2008 – 23 DBRF
  • 2009 – 32 DBRF
  • 2010 – 33 DBRF
  • 2011 – 31 DBRF
  • 2012 – 38 DBRF
  • 2013 – 32 DBRF
  • 2014 – 38 DBRF
  • 2015 – 34 DBRF

 Recent news about fatal dog attacks

Animal behavior perspectives about statistics on fatal dog attacks in the United States

The reader is directed to the dog bite fatality page on Wikipedia for the most scholarly and objective information on this topic.

Below, from my perspective in animal behavior, I will state the general concerns I have regarding statistics and opinions about fatal dog attacks reported by other supposed “experts” on their websites.

  • First, some website authors have obviously strong biases against pit bull type dogs.  As such, these authors present dog bite fatality data that are “cherry picked” for the purposes of promoting a campaign demeaning pit bull type dogs.  It appears that some website authors are on pitbull experta mission to demean the pit bull in whatever way possible. These so-called experts ignore the fact that not all pit bulls are dangerous by nature. There are tremendous individual differences between dogs. The vast majority of severe or fatal dog attacks on people by pit bulls are inflicted by poorly bred, untrained and unsocialized males. In nearly all instances these dogs are maintained by irresponsible owners.  And many honorable Americans are proud owners of pit bulls.  Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt were pit bull owners!
  • Second, the accuracy of data on fatal dog attacks depends on the validity and accuracy of facts about the incident as reported in news stories by the journalists who write the stories.  Website authors depend on this information to create the content on their sites, yet the extent to which the information published is independently verified remains dubious.  Generally, the information is taking on face value. This may be problematic for a number of reasons. Particularly significant is the information reported about the breed of dog involved.  Occasionally, mistakes in correctly identifying the breed of dog(s) involved in a fatal attack happen (see problems with pit bull terrier identification). Likewise, other data collection techniques (animal control reports, police reports, witness observation) used for breed identification purposes in fatal dogs attack investigations may  be flawed because of problems inherent with accurate breed identification through visual means.
  • Third, because mistaken breed identity may occurs, numbers may be inflated for certain kinds of dogs, such as pit bull type dogs.
  • Fourth, it is important to note that a pit bull is not a breed of dog.  Instead, the term “pit bull” only describes a dog that has an appearance similar to a American Pit Bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier.   In some cases a dog identified as a pit bull, based on its physical appearance, may be genetically similar to the American Staffordshire Terrier (AKC recognized) or an American Pit Bull (UKC recognized), but in other cases the dog is genetically dissimilar.  shutterstock_4613422
  • Fifth, the reader should note the incidences of fatalities listed on any website may not represent every case in the United States where death was caused by a dog attack. It is conceivable that some fatal dog attacks in the United States go unreported and never make news headlines, particularly in rural areas.

Finally, the fatalities reported on many websites may not be a direct result of injuries sustained from a dog attack. For example, in some dog bite fatalities the primary cause of death is secondary to bite injuries caused by an attack.  Examples include caradic arrest, freezing to death after falling unconscious following an attack, rabies, septicaemia, infection or falling on head as a result of being attacked.  For example, I recall a reported incident in March 2010 incident in Lucknow, South Carolina involving a 65-year-old lady.  Several websites reported this as a dog bite fatality caused by a pit bull attack, but subsequently the autopsy indicated a fatal heart attack was the primary cause of death (presumably from the stress of the attack). Also, note that a human fatality can be caused by the behavior of a dog that does not involve aggressive intent (e.g. smothering). Click here for medical perspective on the causes of death as a direct result of the dog attack. aablackdoghead

Related content about fatal dog bites

  • Most recent statistics about fatal dog attacks in the United States.  Animal behavior experts have long believed that the majority of fatal dog attacks can be prevented. This belief was again reiterated that in a recent paper that now stands as the most definitive study on the topic of fatal dog attacks in the United States  …. Read more
  • DNA analysis fails to identify dogs involved in fatal dog attack in Dallas, Texas. DNA analysis of fatal dog attacks is used for good reason: Namely, each individual dog has its own unique DNA profile. Each cell of a dog contains 39 pairs of chromosomes comprised of strands of DNA shaped in the form of a “double helix” .. Read more


Dog bite expert   Dr. Polsky is in animal behavior dog bite specialist located in Los Angeles, California. He has been retained as an expert by attorneys on several high profile fatal dog attacks throughout the United States, including the well-known San Francisco dog mauling.  Dr. Polsky welcomes inquiries from attorneys.