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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Vicious police dog bite attack rips man’s throat apart in Ontario, Canada

Previously on, I have written about the dangerous nature of police canines and how police dog bite attacks on criminal suspects usually causes greater bodily injury when compared with dog bite injuries inflicted by the general population of dogs.

On the other hand, relative to dogs in the general population, police canines rarely kill suspects. The likely reason for this is because these dogs are intentionally trained to attack the extremities of a person. In contrast, dog bite fatality usually happens when the neck of the victim is bitten, causing suffocation through the crushing of the trachea, or through rapid blood loss because of damage to the jugular vein or carotid artery.

Moreover, in fatal dog attacks the victim is usually alone, therefore human assistance is typically not available to stop the attack. In contrast, when a police K-9 initiates an attack on a person, whether it is the suspect or an innocent bystander, the dog’s handler is usually close by to intervene when necessary. However, it should be noted that occasionally when a police K-9 is commanded to attack a suspect by its handler, the handler may intentionally delay intervention, and this usually leads to excessive dog bite injury to the suspect and it raises serious questions about the use of excessive force. Questions about whether the dog should have been deployed in a given situation are issues concerning use of force. However, when a police K-9 continues to attack a suspect, even after surrender, then animal behavior questions arise as to whether the handler had sufficient control over the dog.

Another example of the dangerous and unpredictable nature of police canines happened during an apprehension in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in June 2008. In this instance, an 85 lb. police K-9 attacked the wrong part of the suspect’s body. In this case, the dog attacked the throat of the suspect, causing severe damage to his vocal cords and a crushed larynx. According to testimony, at trial in November 2013, the suspect was apprehended as he was hiding in bushes. The dog was deployed to the scene because of reports of individuals going through cars. At trial, the police testified that the attack on the man’s throat was “unpreventable”.  However, this testimony is questionable.

For example, at trial, it was also revealed that this particular police K-9 had a history of biting suspects on previous deployments. The fact that the bite/deployment ratio may have been high for this particular dog indicates a number of possibilities: the unreliability of the dog for fieldwork, or that the dog was not sufficiently trained to limit its attacks to the extremities of the suspect.

If training records revealed failures in this regard, then the testimony by police that the attack on the man’s throat was “unpreventable” was misleading.  In police K-9 attacks on people, it is important to review the training logs of the dog to determine the dog’s “error rate” in the various kinds of training scenarios to which it was subjected. Some police handlers may deploy their canines in a field situation knowing that their dogs are not proficient in certain tasks, such as suspect apprehension, and this increases the danger the dog presents to both suspects and innocent bystanders.

At the time of this posting, trial was still in progress, and outcome is unknown.