left
right

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D.

Website author

Expert Witness for the defense

Animal Behavior Counseling Services, Inc.

Los Angeles, CA.

Q. Were the warnings the defendant received sufficient to make them realize that intervention was needed?

A.Throughout trial, Hammer stressed that the defendants did not take heed to the warnings given them by people who had negative encounters with the dogs. What exactly were these warnings?

For example, on about three occasions the person who they had a negative encounter, told either Noel or Knoller that they need to muzzle their dogs. On another occasion when Noel was in the park with Bane, Noel was approached by a dog trainer who suggested that he use a choke chain and that he subject his dogs to obedience training. More significantly, prior to the arrival of the dogs in San Francisco, Janet Coumbs told Noel and Knoller that Hera should be destroyed because she was too aggressive and out-of-control, and a veterinarian, Dr. Donald Martin, warned the defendants in no uncertain terms that “the dogs would be liabilities in any household”.

In total, there were specific “warnings” from about 6 different people. Would it be fair to fault Noel and Knoller for ignoring these warnings? Certainly, a warning from an experienced veterinarian like Martin should have been taken more seriously. It should have been sufficient to put the defendants on notice. Instead, Noel and Knoller downplayed Martin’s advice.

On the other hand, one might reasonably argue that the defendants had good reason to take the warnings from the other people less seriously because all of these people possessed little or no expertise in assessing and evaluating canine aggression. Moreover, it might be argued that the dog trainer who had warned Noel to use a choke chain and to obedience train his dogs may have been simply trying to solicit business. He did in fact offer his services to Noel.

The defendants might have been moved to take greater action had the warnings come from more competent sources. Dog owners know that people who think they know everything about dogs, but who in reality know very little, are often the first to step up and proffer advice. This is what Noel and Knoller may have been thinking. For this reason, the defendants with some justification, may have chosen to ignore the some warnings. Besides, if a dog is dangerous and has the potential to bite, common sense tells any responsible dog owner to muzzle their dog when the circumstances are warrented.