Police Allege Animal Trainer Negligently Provided Aggressive Service Dog


Dog ExpertCourt: United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Portland Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Powell v. Adlerhorst International, Inc.
Citation: 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151544

Facts

The plaintiff, a police officer, was bitten by a dog that had been sold to the police by the defendant, a company that provides service dogs to the police. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the defendant alleging that the dog was overly aggressive and not fit to be trained for police service. He retained the services of a dog expert to testify on his behalf. The defendant subsequently challenged the dog expert’s testimony.

The Dog Expert

The plaintiff retained an animal behavior expert witness. He obtained his doctorate in animal behavior from the University of Leicester in 1975 and subsequently worked at the University of Birmingham and the Brain Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. The expert later went into private practice and worked as an applied animal behaviorist. The expert has worked on thousands of cases dealing with behavioral problems in dogs and cats. The expert ran a dog training course for 25+ years and examined hundreds of canines in compliance with the standards set forth by the Canine Good Citizen organization’s testing program and the American Kennel Club. The expert also had extensive experience testifying as a dog expert witness in numerous civil and criminal litigation involving animal behavior. He has been retained by attorneys as a dog bite expert witness on both the plaintiff and defense sides.

Discussion

The court noted that the dog expert’s opinion included testimony drawn from the materials that he had reviewed. These materials indicated that the canine was unnecessarily aggressive and not fit to be sold to the City nor to be trained as a service dog. The court believed that the dog expert’s opinion was clearly relevant, as it addressed one of the elements that the defendant was seeking to prove in his claim of negligence.

The court found that the dog expert witness’s opinion was reliable as well because it was based on his review of the selection procedure and the temperament testing that the defendant had performed on the dog. This review had led the expert to determine that the defendant’s method was not a reliable or valid way to determine whether the dog had an aggressive nature or whether it was fit for police service. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the dog expert had not examined the dog himself, holding that the expert’s review of video footage of the dog’s behavior was sufficiently reliable according to standards set by Daubert.

Held

The defendant’s motion to exclude the testimony of the dog expert witness was denied.

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