My initial thoughts are that the owner is strictly liable due to the prima facie violation of state, county, and/or municipal laws that cover leashing and/or dogs at large. Moreover, the owner is responsible for the negligent actions of the guest/agent who was informally or formally assigned responsibility for managing the dogs while the owner was not present. To strengthen the degree of negligence the Plaintiff should investigate whether the dogs have a history of out of context aggressive posturing or biting exhibited toward human or dog. The investigation should also determine the dogs’ territorial behavior, the history of the dogs’ escaping the property outside of owner supervision and/or control, and what remedies the owner has taken if there is an adverse history. An expert can benefit the Plaintiff legal team by determining whether specific canine vocalizations or physical postures described by witnesses to the pertinent event or prior episodes should be accurately construed as “aggressive.” Moreover, the expert can help in designing investigative questions, evaluating interviewee responses, and formulating investigative strategies. Such information will aid in confirming scienter and strengthen the Plaintiff’s negligence argument.
Nevertheless, unless the dogs have a history of prior bites and/or have been formally classified as vicious, dangerous, or potentially dangerous, it will be difficult to prove gross negligence, where the Defendant acted with serious carelessness or recklessness. Although protection training often implies additional negligence when a dog bites inappropriately, the specifics of the training and the history of the dog’s behavior need to be conjunctively evaluated. Protection training conducted properly can actually provide the dog with more control and restraint. I have won a regional title in a protection training sport called Schutzhund and competed nationally in a police dog sport called KNPV. I have also participated in other types of protection training. Moreover, I regularly design behavior modification programs to reduce arousal in aggressive dogs. And I have participated as an expert in several cases involving canine aggression.