Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Animal Behavior / Dog Bite Expert Witness / New York

Dog bite expert witness and animal behavior specialist, Richard Polsky, Ph.D. welcomes inquiries from New York attorneys seeking dog bite expert witness opinion and consultation.

Dog bite expert witness Richard Polsky, Ph.D. describes two dog bite fatalities in New York using an animal behavior perspective.

Expert services rendered by Dr. Polsky include report writing, document review, affidavits and deposition testimony. Dr. Polsky resides in California. Most of his expert witness work can be done remotely. When required, Dr. Polsky will travel to New York for trial testimony.

Dr. Polsky has been retained by New York attorneys on many occasions. In one case he was was retained by plaintiff’s counsel to opine about the questionable efficacy of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) collars. In another case, Dr. Polsky was qualified in court in Brooklyn, New York as an expert witness for the defense in a case that involved a mauling by a pit bull.

Dr. Polsky has been retained equally often lead plaintiff and defense to opined about such issues as provocation and whether a dog possessed vicious/dangerous propensities and if the dog’s dangerous nature must have been known for was foreseeable by the defendant/landlord.

The I yeah fact pattern from two cases in which animal behavior expert opinion may be of value is presented below. Each of these cases describe a dog bite fatality. In each case, animal behavior explanation is used to understand how and why the dog acted as it did.

Animal behavior factors associated with fatal dog attack in New York

Example#1

The first instance happened on November 8, 2015 in Elmont, New York. A 9-year-old girl was savagely attacked and killed by a pit bull belonging to a tenant while playing in her father’s backyard.  It is uncertain what triggered the attack, but provocation may have been involved. 

Prior to the attack, the owner of the pit bull posted a picture of his dog clenching down on strengthening equipment, with a caption reading “The beast!” The owner of the dog was arrested for an offense unrelated to the dog attack. Research findings which suggest that criminally inclined people, like the owner of this pit bull,  gravitate towards ownership of “dangerous” breeds.

Example #2

The second incident also occurred in November 2015 in Oneida County, New York. In this instance, an 11-month-old was killed by the family pit bull x Shar pei mix. The three sisters of the toddler, ages 7, 10, and 12, were playing with the dog. The incident started when suddenly the pit bull started attacking the nearby toddler. The toddler was rushed to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead due to facial and neck injuries. The pit bull reportedly was a family member who had never shown any signs of aggression during his two years with the family.  

Animal behavior features present in these two New York dog bite fatalities have been reported in other fatal dog attacks. Namely, the victims were young, the dog was on its own turf, a pit bull type dog was involved, the dog was a family member, the dog allegedly had shown no signs of aggression to people prior to the incident, and the fatal bites were inflicted to the neck. Concerning the latter, although widely believed, there is no scientific evidence that dogs intentionally aim their bites to the neck area of a person.

Epidemiological research has clearly shown that children are especially prone to dog bite injury, in part, because of their frequently erratic movements and the occasional shrill type vocalizations, particularly during play, and their lack of ability to read and understand subtle social signals delivered to them by dogs.

However, in regard to the attack by the pit bull x Shar-Pei in example #2 two above, the dog did not attack the children it was playing with but rather attacked and killed the toddler. The toddler most likely was in striking distance of the pit bull, and the pit bull “redirected” its aggression away from the familiar children to the toddler. Redirected aggression occasionally happens in dog bite incidents. 

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