BARKS from the Guild November 2017

Page 54


Canine Professionals and Court Testimony

Daniel Antolec discusses the ways in which canine professionals may find themselves

required to give testimony, drawing upon experts in dog liability law, the insurance industry,


dog training and behavior, and his own experience giving testimony as a police officer

he purpose of this article is to help canine professionals become aware, to empower them and draw a blueprint that will help them cope successfully with the legal system. Kenneth M. Phillips practices law in Beverly Hills, California and takes cases throughout the United States, all of them involving injuries caused by dogs. In 2005, Phillips addressed The Biting Dog Conference in Novato, California with a presentation titled Avoiding Liability when you Train, Shelter or Adopt-out. Phillips graciously shared his insights for this article and addressed several areas of liability as follows: “In most states the owner of the dog is responsible if the dog bites a person.” (Author’s note:Wisconsin, for example, has such a law.) “Some states may hold you responsible if you had knowledge of the ‘dangerous propensity’ of a dog to injure a person.”

Dangerous Propensity

"Dangerous propensity could mean that the dog is a biter. It could also mean that the dog plays too hard, jumps up against people, knocks the legs out from under a person and injures them. The dangerous propensity law applies to anyone who has custody of the dog and who has knowledge there is this problem with the dog. They have a duty to do something about it.”

Negligence Liability

“You are responsible for your own negligence: a foreseeable accident that you could prevent with a reasonable measure. In other words, an unreasonable action that causes a foreseeable injury to somebody to whom you have a duty.”

Negligence per se

“There also is negligence based not on you doing something unreasonable, but doing something that violates a local law that has to do with public safety.Violating a leash law is called negligence per se.”

Contract Liability

“Contracts can create or limit liability.” (Author’s note: PPG founder, Niki Tudge, presented a free member webinar on Contract Management in January, 2017, which described how to effectively understand and use a business contract for your benefit.)

Discharge Report

“This is a report card to the owner telling them what occurred, 54

BARKS from the Guild/November 2017

Pet professionals may be called upon to testify in dog-related cases for a number of reasons and it is worth their while to be fully prepared

© Can Stock Photo/focalpoint

Owner Liability

what the dog’s behavior was, how the dog responded, what unresolved problem behaviors remain, and what to do about it in future. This protects you from claims that you hid anything from the owner or made other representations.”


“Saying something that is a misrepresentation, creating a false impression or concealing something. For example, failing to reveal the aggressive history of a dog.”

Actions of Employees or Agents

“An agent is someone who is doing something for you even if they are not an employee.You must ensure they do the right thing or you will be responsible under the law if something goes wrong and harm ensues.”

Creating False Expectations

“Overaggressive marketing of training services can result in liability based on false expectations about a trainer. If you hold yourself up to possess special expertise in an area, then you will be held to the same standard as an expert in that area. “I am thinking specifically of the term ‘behaviorist’ to describe a trainer. If you are not an accredited applied animal behaviorist