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Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D.

Website author

Expert Witness for the defense

Animal Behavior Counseling Services, Inc.

Los Angeles, CA.

Q. Just because Bane and Hera belonged to the breed of Presa Canario, did this make them dangerous by nature?

A. Absolutely not. In fact, the prosecution did not even bring in testimony from a behavioral expert suggesting this was the case.

Nevertheless, in a clever fashion, indirectly through the testimony of others, particularly the bad dog witnesses, the prosecution drove home the idea that since Presa canario was bred for fighting they had to be dangerous by nature.

Prosecution also implied the dangerous nature of the Presa canario through what Bane and Hera were supposedly intended to be used for – guarding and attack – and the connection of the dogs to Schneider. The massive size of the dogs and the waving of a cast of Bane’s teeth in front of the jury certainly help reinforce this point.

During his closing argument, Hammer noted that the breed was more dangerous than pit bulls. However, this was solely his conclusion because it did not come from expert testimony. Late in the trial, the prosecution’s behavioral expert, Dr. Randall Lockwood, was called to rebut the creditability of Knoller’s testimony – and not to testify about the nature of this breed. Lockwood had probably already informed Hammer’s team of the difficulty he would have in stereotyping the breed as aggressive by nature. However, in his testimony Lockwood did say that with this breed you have to “train them not to be aggressive” which in reality is saying the breed is aggressive by nature. I found this statement rather ironic because Lockwood, as an official with the United State Humane Society, has repeatedly argued against breed specific legislation based on purported breed tendencies.

The upshot of all of this is that no individual dog is dangerous by nature simply because of their breed. Certainly breed tendencies may push a dog towards having an inclination to respond with aggression in certain contexts (such as the territorial context in which all of Bane’s and Hera’s aggressive displays were reported to have occurred) but, in itself, it is not the final word. Despite the lack of any expert testimony, the jury began their deliberations with the mind-set that Presa canario dogs were dangerous by nature.