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Cave Canem: Bite Mark Analysis in a Fatal Dog Pack Attack

Pomara, Cristoforo MD, PhD*; D'Errico, Stefano MD*; Jarussi, Valerio DVM; Turillazzi, Emanuela MD, PhD*; Fineschi, Vittorio MD, PhD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 50-54
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181edf0e2
Case Reports

Deaths resulting from animal attacks are rare, and according to The Humane Society of the United States, more than 300 individuals died of dog attacks in the United States from 1979 to 1996. The case of a fatal dog-pack attack on an 83-year-old woman is presented. Wide lacerations of the scalp, several tooth puncture wounds, and bruises reproducing bite marks were recorded on the whole body. Exsanguinations due to brachial artery laceration subsequent to multiple dog bites were indicated as the main cause of death. An integrated study in association with a veterinary doctor was performed on 27 dogs of different breed (24 Cane Corso, 1 Dalmatian, 2 German Shepherds) collecting dental formula and dental casts. Dental casts were superimposed on the victim's wound samples collected at autopsy and analyzed for compatibility-the patterns taken from the jaws of 3 suspected dogs could be clearly adapted on the bite marks. At the end of investigation, the son of the victim indicated the 3 dogs of his own as the responsible ones and he was condemned for manslaughter. Bite marks analysis provided conclusive evidences in identifying the offending animals. The results may be important to give details about bite circumstances and predisposition of specific breeds of dogs to bite or inflict severe bites.

From the *Department of Forensic Pathology, University of Foggia; and †Department of Medical Veterinary, Azienda Sanitaria Locale FG, Foggia, Italy.

Manuscript received July 31, 2009; accepted March 27, 2010.

Correspondence: Vittorio Fineschi, MD, PhD, Department of Forensic Pathology, University of Foggia, Ospedale Colonnello D'Avanzo, Via degli Aviatori, 1, 71100 Foggia, Italy. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.