CPT President Mark Spivak is an experienced and talented expert witness for either plaintiff or defense purposes. Judges have qualified Mr. Spivak as an expert witness in both
civil and criminal matters. Mr. Spivak’s experience includes researching, investigating, writing convincing affidavits, and testifying on behalf of clients while working closely
in conjunction with the client’s attorney.
How An Expert In Animal Behavior and Training Can Assist An Attorney
- Dog bite injuries
- Homeowner-victim claims regarding person or property
- Landlord-tenant issues
- Seller-purchaser contract issues
- Service performance issues
- Negligence issues
- Questions of provocation
- Zoning violations
- (habitats, breed specific ordinances)
- Animal control violations
- (barking, dog at large, nuisance complaints)
- (scratching, biting, quarantine)
- (vicious animal hearings)
- Misdemeanors and felonies
Case Examples of How CPT Expert Witness Services Have Helped Clients
- While running across an area in dispute between the Plaintiff and Defendant as to whether it was community property or private property, the Plaintiff client’s minor child was
severely bitten on the leg by the Defendant’s chained German Shepherd Mix. Resultantly, the child required several surgical procedures. The Defendant’s lawyers hired by his insurance
company refused to provide a reasonable settlement offer. They argued that the dog was properly confined within the laws of the county and municipality, that the child had trespassed
onto the Defendant’s property, that the Defendant had posted appropriate “Beware of Dog” signs along the front of the property, and that the Defendant had no prior knowledge of
the dog’s aggressive behavior, since there were never any formal charges or convictions against the Defendant for violating dangerous dog statutes. Due to opposing counsel’s recalcitrance,
Plaintiff attorneys contracted with CPT. Unfortunately, a first-hand behavioral evaluation of the dog was impossible, since the Defendant had the dog euthanized several months
after the incident.
Nevertheless, by utilizing case files, transcripts, interviews with witnesses, and interviews with neighbors combined with a thorough review of pertinent statutory law, case precedent,
statistical data, and animal behavior research, a CPT expert analysis and concomitant affidavit was able to convincingly support the client’s/Plaintiff’s arguments that: 1) Based
on two acknowledged unreported bites, the Defendant had prior knowledge (scienter) of the dog’s unprovoked aggressive behavior, 2) The Defendant was aware of the dog’s known propensity
to behave aggressively toward neighbor children, 3) The Defendant failed to exercise due diligence to protect the public, 4) Chaining the dog increased the probability that the
dog would act upon its known aggressive propensities, 5) The Defendant’s actions were legally negligent- since information was readily available in the public domain that chaining
increased the probability of aggressive behavior- similarly, information was available in the public domain that many counties and municipalities had concomitantly statutorily
prohibited chaining due to the risk chaining presented to the public, 6) The chained dog potentially posed an attractive nuisance to the young child, 7) There is information in
the public domain that German Shepherds and German Shepherd Mixes, in comparison to the average domestic dog breed, have a higher probability of acting aggressively and a higher
probability of inflicting severe or lethal bites, 8) Lack of proper care on the part of the Defendant could have contributed to the dog’s aggressive propensities, 9) The Defendant
was aware that neighbor children frequently used the disputed common area, 10) The Defendant should have been aware that the length of the dog’s chain allowed the dog to have
contact with children who frequently walked or ran on the disputed area, 11) Shrubbery between the undisputed private property of the defendant and the disputed common area obstructed
the small child’s view of the dog and created a hidden trap, 12) “Beware of Dog” signage was not conspicuously placed where it was visible to a child using the common area, 13)
Georgia civil case precedent has determined that a young child is considered unaware of the concept of trespass, 14) The shrubbery may have heightened the dog’s territorial aggressive
behavior, 15) The child running may have heightened the dog’s barrier frustration, territoriality, and/or predatory aggressive behavior, 16) The Defendant failed to reduce exposure
to known potential risks by properly confining the dog, 17) The Defendant failed to reduce risks by commencing any form of obedience or behavioral training, and 18) The size,
depth, and severity of the bite did not correspond to the level of threat rationally posed by the child and was the maladaptive act of an unstable, poorly managed dog. Consequently,
the previously intractable insurance company attorneys agreed to substantially increase their settlement offer. Shortly thereafter, the case settled favorably for our client.
- CPT provided expert trial testimony in a case involving a dispute between a purchaser and breeder. The Plaintiff purchaser believed the dog’s aggressive behavior frequently
exhibited toward several members of the family amidst food or territory and post commands or reprimands constituted a violation of warranties present in the breeder-authored puppy
sales contract. CPT expert testimony corroborated the Plaintiff’s observations of the dog, technically categorized the dog’s behavior within the formal classifications of “dominant
aggressive, possessive aggressive, and fear aggressive,” and classified the dog’s behavior as “abnormal,” especially for a puppy less than six months of age.
- CPT has consulted in a civil case involving police brutality. The Gwinnett County police believed the Plaintiff robbed a convenience store, then stole an automobile to aid in
his escape. The police pursued the stolen automobile, whereby they stated they visually observed the Plaintiff abandon the automobile alongside a road and flee by foot into a
wooded area. The police strategically positioned backup officers around the perimeter of the wooded area. A Gwinnett County police dog then tracked the suspect Plaintiff from
the point of the abandoned car into a specific thicket within the wooded area. Once the Plaintiff’s position was located, the police dog handler verbally informed the hidden Plaintiff
that he was under arrest and that he was to move into view. When the Plaintiff refused the police dog handler’s requests, the handler announced three times that he would “send”
his dog and that the dog “will bite.” The handler released the dog, whereby the dog bit the Plaintiff on the arm. Subsequently, the handler and an accompanying officer attempted
to subdue and handcuff the Plaintiff. In the process, the Plaintiff again fled on foot. The handler again announced that he would “send” his dog and that the dog “will bite.”
The officer released the dog. The dog bit the fleeing Plaintiff in the posterior thigh, causing severe injury, including deep lacerations and tearing of the hamstring muscle.
The Plaintiff’s attorney’s requested that CPT analyze case files, depositions, Gwinnett County regulations regarding handling and usage of police dogs, and the training records
of the particular police dog and handler to determine whether the handler violated standard protocols or procedures or whether training records indicated that the dog was either
not trained to specification or exhibited abnormally aggressive behavior. A research report and verbal summation to the Plaintiff’s attorneys concluded that the officer followed
standard Gwinnett County protocols and that the dog acted in accordance with guidelines. Therefore, the case was weak regarding improper handling or training of the dog. However,
further analysis concluded that the Gwinnett County police handler protocols were more aggressive than those utilized in surrounding counties. Thus, moving forward, the strategy
of the case should not focus on the officer or dog acting improperly per the standards established by the Gwinnett County police department, as was originally the goal of the
Plaintiff’s attorney. Instead, the strategy of the case should focus on the legal possibility that the standards of the police department allowed the use of unwarranted “excessive
force” that posed unnecessary and unreasonable risk of injury to the Plaintiff and violated the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, which was an issue better left to an expert
in criminal justice or constitutional law than an expert in animal behavior and training.
- Client was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. The officer accused the client of intentionally sending his dog to attack. Though
there was no contact and no injuries, the officer alleged the client used commands that prompted the dog to chase her off the property. Expert observational and video analysis
and a resultant affidavit proved incontrovertibly that the dog was not trained in protection, was not innately aggressive or inordinately territorial, and did not understand the
protection commands stated in the officer’s complaint. To strengthen the case we provided a video of a contrasting dog trained in protection. The charges were dismissed.
- Client was arrested and charged with felony cruelty to children. Her child was removed from her home and placed in the custody of DFACS. The school counselor and police alleged
injuries to the child arose from physical abuse. The child and mother attested that injuries arose from rough play with the family dog. Medical reports were inconclusive as to
the origin of the wounds, but categorized them as scratches and excoriated lesions (not bruises or hematomas). Expert evaluation of the client dog, along with expert produced
photographs and video, demonstrated an untrained, out of control animal, who due to breed tendencies and lack of attention often jumped, pawed and scratched. The animal had long,
untrimmed nails that had scratched through sheetrock in a basement enclosure. Moreover, photographs of the scratches closely corresponded to the direction and dimension of the
wound sites documented in the hospital medical report created at the urging of DFACS. Expert analysis and a summary affidavit supported the defense's position and raised more
than reasonable doubt that injuries to the child were originated by the family dog- not a human, as initially alleged by the state. CPT's research and resultant affidavit were
essential in having the charges dismissed and the child returned home to his parents.
- CPT recently worked on a civil slip and fall lawsuit where the plaintiff client was injured while attending a dog training class at a major big box retailer. The client’s resultant
orthopedic injuries required several surgeries. A CPT expert provided an affidavit and a deposition on behalf of the client. The CPT affidavit and deposition incorporated the
defendants’ answers to interrogatories, scientific research, knowledge of educational psychology, knowledge of animal behavior, knowledge of accepted practices and standards,
and expansive experience teaching similar training classes to attempt to prove the defendant’s negligence and resultant liability in relation to the incapacitating injuries suffered
by the Plaintiff.
- A CPT expert testified at a criminal trial where the defendant client was accused in Carrol County of felony cruelty to animals. The CPT expert provided verbal and visual testimony
regarding the victim dog’s physical and verbal communication and overall behavior within the context of the pertinent events. The CPT testimony helped the jury determine that
the animal was aggressive and that the client’s actions were legally valid given the dog’s behavior, the circumstances, and the wording and intent of the pertinent statute, whereby
the client was found not guilty of all charges.
- CPT provided an affidavit on behalf of an Atlanta Falcon player accused of felony cruelty to animals. The player’s fiance owned a dog that had exhibited aggressive behavior
to family members and strangers and in the process inflicted several bites. Out of concern for the safety of his young child, himself, and the community, the client considered
euthanizing the animal. Veterinary professionals concurred that euthanasia was a viable option given the dog’s history and the low probability of training success. Nevertheless,
the player, in an attempt to keep the pet alive, contracted with a local trainer recommended by his veterinarian. The trainer board trained the animal and provided follow-up consulting.
However, the dog remained frequently aggressive, which frightened the client and placed the family and community at risk. Still, the player continued attempting to modify the
animal’s behavior by implementing the techniques espoused by the trainer. Unfortunately, on one occasion, when the player implemented the suggested techniques, the dog was subsequently
injured and later died. Gwinnett County then charged the player with felony cruelty to animals. After researching all pertinent facts, CPT submitted an affidavit denoting that
the primary technique advocated by the trainer was a legitimate technique favored by others within the dog training profession, that the technique was archaic and now rarely applied
by educated professional trainers, that the technique was inappropriate for reducing the aggression of the subject dog, that the technique would likely exacerbate the aggression
of the subject dog, and that the technique may cause the subject dog to act aggressively with less salient warning than communicated previous to the implementation of the technique.
Felony cruelty to animals requires intent and malice. The CPT affidavit described the technique and how even proper implementation of the technique may accidentally result in
severe injury or death. The affidavit also emphasized the client’s efforts to salvage the dog’s life by contracting with the trainer and taking the time, finances, and risk to
implement continued training strategies, rather than simply having his veterinarian euthanize the animal, such that the evidence demonstrated that the client’s actions sharply
contrasted with any allegations or legal requirements of intent, malice or forethought. Moreover, to eliminate potential allegations of criminal negligence, the affidavit communicated
that the trainer had superior knowledge of the potential for injury or death inherent to the recommended training technique, that the trainer did not impart such information to
the client, that the trainer was recommended by a state licensed veterinarian (the same state that was ironically now accusing the client of a crime), that the client precisely
followed the trainer’s instruction, and that given the client’s lack of a dog training education and his rationale in trusting the trainer and the techniques advocated by the
trainer, considering the circumstances and information at hand, the client’s actions were prudent and reasonable and not criminal or negligent in nature. Consequently, the Gwinnett
County District Attorney’s office dismissed all charges prior to the date of trial.
- Dekalb County and a client’s condominium association accused the client of owning a "pit bull" in violation of zoning ordinances and restrictive covenants. Expert evaluation
of the dog and a summary affidavit demonstrated that he was not a pit bull per the definitions authored within the pertinent County statute nor the definitions of the condominium
bylaws. The client was allowed to keep her dog.
- A client was cited for violating dog out of control and vicious animal statutes. During the pertinent incident, the client was walking her Labrador Retriever on the street within
her subdivision. A neighbor’s Chihuahua bolted out its front door and ran off its property and onto the street while barking aggressively at the client animal. The client animal
bit the Chihuahua, causing over $1500 in veterinary bills. This was the client dog’s second similar incident within the past year. Working in conjunction with the attorney, a
CPT expert behavioral analysis and summary affidavit regarding the dog and the event was able to establish provocation, which by statute exculpated the client dog. Charges were
- A client owning a well trained, friendly pit bull mix was accused of dog at large and vicious animal violations. During the relevant incident, the owner’s child was walking
the dog. The dog pulled the leash from the child and ran toward a neighbor. The neighbor stated the dog jumped on him aggressively with intent to injure him. The child said the
dog jumped on the neighbor to “say hello.” The adult client stated that the neighbor is afraid of dogs, especially her breed. A CPT expert evaluated the animal and produced video
demonstrating that the dog was friendly and social with people and animals. In a subsequent research report and summary affidavit, CPT also described the event from a behavioral
perspective. The client plead guilty to the dog at large violation (for when the child lost control of the leash), but the more serious vicious animal violation was dismissed.
- A client was cited for violations of dog at large and vicious animal statutes. Furthermore, the client’s property owners’ association board of directors commenced efforts to
utilize subdivision covenants to remove the dog from within the gated community. The dog was accused of starting a dogfight and injuring a neighbor animal on one occasion and
injuring another neighbor animal on a second occasion. During the first incident, the client dog was on-leash on its property. An off-leash neighbor dog progressed from its property
to the client’s driveway while barking repeatedly. The client dog pulled on its leash and escaped the owner’s daughter. A brief fight ensued, whereby the neighbor animal was injured.
During the second incident, a neighborhood dog received over $2,000 in veterinary bills, apparently from an animal attack. However, there were no witnesses to the attack, only
the aftermath, and no forensic evidence proving that wound marks matched the client dog’s dentition. Working as a strategic team in conjunction with the client’s attorney, a thorough
CPT expert evaluation combined with a well researched written report and video evidence were able to prompt a dismissal of all charges and stop inappropriate, harassing actions
from the client’s POA.
If you are an Attorney, a Plaintiff, or a Defendant engaged in a criminal or civil action involving dog behavior or dog law, please contact CPT to learn
how CPT’s expert witness services may strengthen your case.
Mr. Spivak’s CV is available upon request.