The Role of the Veterinarian in Dog Bite Cases Webinar Series

This video was recorded from the webinar on December 7, 2023.

Veterinarians as Dog Bite Expert Witnesses

The Veterinary experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained by both plaintiff and defense counsel to investigate dog bite incidents. But what makes someone a "dog bite expert," and why is a veterinarian the right choice?

In this 30-minute webinar, Dr. Kenyon Conklin will discuss the role of a veterinarian in dog bite investigations through the lens of two case examples. She will also share insights on the animal health, behavior, and training considerations that contribute to her analyses.

Transcript Excerpt

KC: Why is a veterinarian different from other dog bite experts?

Veterinarians are the only qualified individual to assess the behavior as well as the health and the training as facets of the incident. We are also the only qualified individual can prescribe behavioral modification, medications to dogs, and assess the efficacy and appropriateness of that course of medication. We can assess records from veterinary clinics, behaviorists, and also trainers to pick up on nuanced verbiage.

For example, as a lawyer, you're going to look at some of the memos and other documents written by other lawyers, and you're going to pick up on some subtleties between the lines. That's the same thing with a veterinarian. We're going to see little things like a dog being described as "mouthy" or that the veterinarian or veterinary technician that saw them highly recommended behavioral counseling and training.

So these are little tip offs that let us know that we need to dig a little bit further when we're doing our investigation and really assess what this dog's behavioral tendencies were as part of our work, and usually this is in conjunction with law enforcement, and other legal experts as far as folks who are working within animal shelters who have to help craft public health policy and address dog law in the area.

We are very experienced with the applications of municipal and state dog laws as part of our job, and we are also the best qualified to determine animal abuse and neglect. We are highly experienced with doing what's called a necropsy where we examine, just like a human autopsy, a deceased animal to look for definitive cause of death or injury in these animals. So as I alluded to before, we also look at health as a consideration in our bite case investigations.


What does a veterinarian do in just a day to day practice that makes them uniquely capable of making behavioral assessments?

We kind of look at behavior from two different directions.

First, we look at it from the quick assessments that we have to make a patient behavior up to 40 times a day. Every time a patient comes into an exam room, we have to assess very quickly what the potential behavioral outcomes of this interaction is going to be. We have to do this to keep the patient safe, ourselves, and our staff safe and also our client safe within that exam room.

And we get the luxury of being able to make these assessments and observations with with patients and their owners in relaxed settings within the exam room and also stressful settings. How does that dog act when it's being put in an unusual position. It gives us some very, interesting background in these cases.

On the other hand, we are also used to doing in-depth one on one behavioral assessments and treatments when we're dealing with behavioral problems such as canine aggression.

So training considerations and evaluating those - veterinarians are utilized as the experts in our field to assess the humane application of training aids.

There are many training methods from different what you select from collars, how you perform corrections, and veterinarians are capable of assessing those training methods and their outcomes both for behavioral and general physical health of the animals. As well as assessing the records of training for companion service and working dogs.


Kenyon Conklin, Veterinary Expert

Kenyon Conklin, VMD

Veterinary Expert
Dr. Kenyon Conklin is a licensed veterinarian with over 20 years of experience in the private practice, corporate, military, and research sectors. She provides technical investigations, analysis,… read more.

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