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”

Animal behavior issues for the Nevada dog bite expert witness

Nevada dog bite expert
Animal behavioral analysis can be used to determine if provocation, negligence or assumption of risk happened in a dog bite case.

Retaining a Nevada dog bite expert witness may be advantageous for personal injury attorneys if liability in a lawsuit is contested.  A dog bite expert can proffer animal behavior opinions on issues such as provocation, assumption of risk, and foreseeability.  These issues may be of importance in some dog bite lawsuits in Nevada given that Nevada is not a state that has strict liability for dog bites. Nevada dog bite law dictates that recovery for the plaintiff is usually determined in part by the plaintiff’s comparative fault or the defendant’s negligence.  

The value of retaining a canine bite expert in Nevada

Given that Nevada is not a strict liability state for dog bites, a Nevada dog bite expert could prove beneficial when an opinion is needed one such issues as provocation, assumption of risk and negligence. Below, I will briefly describe the fact pattern from a case in which animal behavior opinion was required to address these issues.

Fact Pattern in this Nevada dog attack case

A three-year-old, male Labrador retriever escaped from the property of the defendant and ran into the street of a residential neighborhood in an extremely excited manner. The owner attempted to call the canine back, but the dog was non-compliant. The dog ran excitedly across lawns and into the street. This frenzy behavior by the dog continued for about 10 minutes, after which, a neighbor took it upon himself to capture the dog by wrestling the dog to the ground. However,  in the process, the dog bit the neighbor. The dog escaped from  the neighbor’s grasp, and shortly thereafter returned to the owner. At this point, the owner leashed the canine and brought the dog back into his home.

Animal behavior expert opinion was used to address the issues of provocation, assumption of risk and negligence to determine the extent of liability on part of the defendant. 

 Did the plaintiff provoke the king into bite when attempting capture?

No firm conclusions could be drawn that provocation occurred given the dubious motivational state of the dog . The dog was running around in a frenzy-like manner.  However, whether this behavior was driven with the aggressive intent or through excitement was difficult to determine  based on the totality of the evidence about this particular dog. Generally speaking,  provocation in dog bite cases is determined by the interplay of several factors, some of which include the dog’s motivational state, the actions of the victim, the immediacy of the attack, the dog’s temperament, and past behavioral history of the dog.  In sum, it was inconclusive that the actions of the plaintiff provoked the dog to bite.

 Did the plaintiff assume the risk of being bitten when attempting capture?

The reasonableness of the plaintiff’s actions relative the totality of the circumstances present must be taken into account in determining if the plaintiff assumed the risk of being bitten. For example, one would  assume greater risk of being bitten in certain circumstances by attempting capture of an aggressive Rottweiler which contrasts with an excited Labrador retriever running excitedly about in a residential neighborhood.  The plaintiff testified that he acted in the interest of public safety and that there was no good reason for him to believe that he would be bitten in the process.  Nonetheless, he acted intentionally and arguably he knowingly put himself in harm’s way.  Given  these different perspectives no firm conclusions were possible regarding assumption of risk by the plaintiff.

Did the defendant act irresponsibly by allowing the dog to escape from his property and then not immediately capturing the dog after it escaped?

Most municipalities have leash laws enacted solely to protect the public from dogs running-at-large. In this instance, arguably the owner was comparatively at fault for not being able to control his dog after the dog escaped from his property.  Further,  discovery showed that  the dog had not received any meaningful obedience training. Obedience training may allow an owner to control over the dog in”emergency” situations, such as a dog running at large.  Hence, the defendant dog owner arguably was negligent because of his gross disregard for the training needs of the dog.  Alternatively, negligence by the defendant was demonstrated based on the way he maintained the dog on his property.


In this instance, animal behavior analysis was used to address questions about the dog’s behavior as they related to the legal issues of to provocation, assumption of risk and negligence. No definitive conclusions could be drawn using this perspective by this Nevada animal behavior expert

In sum,  according to Nevada dog bite law, given that victim did not provoke the dog or assume the risk of being bitten, then recovery for the plaintiff was made possible due to the negligence of the defendant ( law violation) and because of the faulty manner in which the dog was maintained on the property of the defendant. 


Richard Polsky, Ph.D. is a Nevada animal behavior expert  and welcomes inquiries from Nevada attorneys seeking opinions on issues that require animal behavior analysis. Dr. Polsky provides dog bite legal services for attorneys in Nevada.

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