Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Dr. Richard Polsky - The Dog Expert

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Presa Canario Dog Bite Mauling in San Francisco

Inquiry To Dr. Polsky

 I read your writings. I found them quite informative. I am guessing that you are against any BSL as am I. However, we differ on a couple of things. I truly believe that any sign of aggressive behavior is a warning that worse things can and may happen. You seem to say it won’t. Is that truly your standing? You say that Knoller was simply unable to stop the dog, bless her heart, she is just a small woman up against a large dog. I definitely think that is total BS.

I am only 5 feet tall. I am also quite disabled with cervical and thoracic DDD. My daughters 110 pound rottweiler went after a 5 year old child in a frenzy, thankfully he was on a chain but he was still quite frenzied and she was only inches from him after he knocked her down, he was oblivious to my screams, I physically pulled him off and threw him to the ground.

I saw the pictures of the hallway. There were cans from the groceries, there was a large jar of Pace Picante sauce, Knoller couldhave grabbed any as a weapon and beat the dog in the head, he would have stopped, or his head crushed but she didn’t. Iheard her tale that he jumped up on the lady at her door, but the whole hallway looked like a bloodbath. Had the dog jumped on her at her door and Knoller covered her with her own body as she said NUMEROUS times, then why is the whole hall bloodied?

Bane and Hera both warned Knoller and Noel with their behavior. It does not take a one eyed moron to know that a growling lunging dog is aggression, aggression leads to viciousness, and viciousness leads to much worse. There were NO consequences for the dog in any of the prior incidents, no training, not even a pinch collar which is a must if you cannot control a dog.

You are supposed to be a behavior expert, you above all others should know that if an animal has no control of its behavior, it thinks it is ok. Someone has to put on some brakes. No one did which is why an incident of this type not only was possible but should have been predicted. Any dog be it chihuahua or Pressa canario can lose it for no apparent reason.

These people had the audacity to try and blame the victim!! Of course we should not be allowed to wear perfume . These people showed their true colors in their behavior which was recorded several times. You can downplay the bestiality as you have reported it as just her genital area being explored. But I am 50 and have had dogs all my life and my crotch has never been explored while I was naked. But if there is more that you know nothing about and Knoller had been mounted by Bane, it is no wonder, she had no control and why he became more aggressive.

I would hope you would quit trying to help these kinds of people and start helping the dogs, by placing the blame right where it belongs, on the head of the human who has abstract thinking as well as a higher level of thought processes and communication processes. Then maybe the dogs have a chance.

Response From Dr. Polsky

This was a case about second degree murder and not whether the dog in question, Bane, would predictably attack a person. There is no question that Bane was aggressive and dangerous by nature, and this should have been known by Knoller, and that an attack on a human would be foreseeable, but the central question in this case was whether Knoller could have reasonably foreseen that Bane would kill a person.

If one looks at the epidemiological and animal behavior literature, human fatalities never happen in the presence of the owner, which is what happened here, and this was acknowledged by the animal behavior expert for the prosecutionat the time of trial, but apparently this was not fully processed by the jury (Knoller at trial was conviced of 2nd degree murder based on implied malice).

It is also important to note, that during the attack Bane was likely in a highly aggressive motivational state, and given his size and strength, and given the lack of physical prowess of Knoller, the benefit of doubt should be given to Knoller who repeatedly said she was unable to stop the attack or control the dog, after the attack began. For example, when pit bulls enter into a state of aggressive frenzy during their attack on a human, frequently the only way to stop the attack is with gunshot.

The bestiality claims made by the prosecution were extremely flammatory, and whether they were true or not, was immaterial because they did not have much to do with the legal questions facing the jurors: second degree murder based on implied malice, or manslaughter. Therefore, presentation of evidence about bestiality was not allowed at the time of trial.

For those who’ve been following the case, after much legal wrangling, which included the case being heard before the California Supreme Court, Knoller’s second-degree murder charge was reinstated in 2009 on the belief that Knoller let the attack continue without making a serious attempt to stop it. Apparently, the basis for this was that Knoller left the scene of the incident to go look for her keys, and she did not immediately telephone for help. Apparently the judge making this decision felt the actions of Knoller were sufficiently callous after the attack started to justify conviction of second-degree murder based on implied malice.