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”

Pit bull kills infant with redirected aggression in Indiana

Another tragic dog bite fatality happened in January 2020 in Lafayette, Indiana. In this instance the victim, a 26-day-old infant, was likely killed because of the dog’s redirected aggression.

Circumstances are unclear about how the incident happened but according to People magazine, the circumstances were as follows:

  • The mother the infant was home at the time of the  fatal attack;
  • The dog was a family member;
  •  Prior to the incident the people have been fighting with a beagle mix in the home;
  •  A teenager separated the two fighting dogs and at that point the pit bull attack the infant;

Expert opinion: An example of redirected aggression?

It is likely that the pit bull was highly aroused when separated from the beagle.  This dog’s aggressive arousal most likely caused it to redirected its aggression to the infant. Redirected aggression to a nearby person or dog is a common phenomenon in dog behavior.  This is especially true when the aggressive response of the dog is thwarted or stopped in some fashion.

A highly aroused, aggressive dog often chooses the most proximate target, as likely was the case in the current instance. It’s likely the  infant was nearby the dog.

Other examples of redirected aggression in dogs

Other common instances in which canine redirected aggression happens is in the context of “fence fighting” or when the dog is being walked on a leash, encounters another aggressive dog, and then turns and bites the owner. Or when  a person attempts to separate two fighting dogs, one of the dogs will turn and bite the person.

Redirected aggression is a concept  originally derived from terminology in classic ethology. From a scientific perspective, the term continues  to have meaningful application in instances in which domestic dogs attack and kill people.




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