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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Intoxicated Lady Suffers from a Dog Bite in Michigan

Q.  My dog bit a woman while being tied up in my back yard, the woman not only was trespassing because she entered the yard uninvited and unannounced, she was told not to go by my dog the first time she entered the yard, this same woman was 3 times the legal limit of what a person would be considered over the limit to drive.  The second time she came over and entered my yard I was in the house, again not knowing that she was out side.  Again this woman was Drunk, her alcohol level was 3.17.  The county took my dog and destroyed him, now she is trying to sue me, what should my lawyer be doing?

Drew Smith, Michigan.

A. Your attorney should know that Michigan is a “strict liability” state for dog bites, meaning that the owner is liable regardless of reason for the incident and even in the absence of any prior knowledge by the owner of the dog propensities for biting. Given this, one of the few defenses available is to shift the blame to the plaintiff, and make the argument that the plaintiff was bitten because she provoked the dog. If she was intoxicated, that might be a factor but only if her intoxicated state caused her to behave in such a way to make her actions provocative to the dog. the intoxicated state of the person does not cause the dog to react adversely to a person, but only the behavior which stems from the intoxicated state. A person who is intoxicated may be more likely to act in a provocative fashion that to a dog compared with a person who is not intoxicated. The exact kinds of behavior that constitute provocation very from situation to situation, and generally speaking provocative actions to the dog do not necessarily have to be intentionally undertaken by the victim There is quite a bit of case law in Michigan that addresses the issue of provocation, from a legal standpoint. From a behavioral standpoint one important element is to demonstrate that your dog was non aggressive by nature and accepting of people coming into your property. However it is also very important to get a good description of exactly what happened prior to the attack. There are other factors that need to be considered that any competent dog bite attorney in Michigan should know.