Expert Witness for Canine Aggression Cases
By Robert Forto, PhD
Attorneys may be uncertain about the benefits of retaining an expert in animal behavior in dog bites cases, or how such an expert can help. This is understandable: In Colorado, and in many other states, the law specifies strict liability for injuries caused by a dog bite. Thus, when only damages are contested, the animal behavior expert’s role may be limited. However, if liability is contested, then having an animal behavior expert on your side may mean the difference between winning and losing.
Ten areas in which the opinions of an animal behavior expert can help the dog bite attorney:
1. Whether provocation was a factor in causing the dog to bite;
2. Breed identification and behavioral proclivities of different breeds;
3. The side effects of drugs and how they impact aggressive responding and the safety and reliability of dog training equipment;
4. The behavioral capabilities of the dog at the time the incident happened;
5. The dangerous or vicious nature of the dog in question;
6. The care and maintenance of a dog and how these factors influence behavior;
7. Was the incident foreseeable to the dog owner, or a landlord?
8. How alleged gross misconduct of an owner impacts a dog’s behavior.
9. Identification of the dog which did the biting when multiple dogs are involved in an incident
10. Reconstruct how the incident must have happened for the purposes of discounting or supporting testimony in the case.
Dr. Robert Forto is a qualified expert for both plaintiff and defense counsel in canine behavior, aggression, bites and other pet related attacks. Dr. Forto has over 19 years direct hands-on experience as a canine behaviorist and trainer, lecture, columnist and educator.
Dr. Forto has conducted numerous seminars on the evaluation, assessment and investigation of pet related injuries for attorneys, in-house training programs, home owners associations and city councils. Dr. Forto is available to lecture to consumer attorney organizations, insurance firms, trial lawyers and city governments, municipalities, shelter organizations, non-profits, among others. Dr. Forto has developed a course on the subject and his articles have been published in numerous publications nationally and internationally.