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Ann Baslington-Davis is a Canine Behaviour Analyst, specialising as an expert witness for Court cases involving dog bites and fights. An expert witness would be called into assist where a dog has bitten (or alleged to have bitten) a person whilst out in a public place or on private property, or if a dog has been seized under the Dangerous Dog Act 1991. We spoke with Ann to understand more about her work.
1. Do you have any pets?
Yes, currently I have three elderly rescue dogs called Eila, Fizz and Blu. I have had many more dogs, rats, chinchillas, degus and cats in the past.
2. What’s your favourite food and drink?
I do enjoy a nice Rioja and have a weakness for chocolate!
3. What is your guilty pleasure?
Probably the chocolate and wine but I do spend far too much time playing silly match three games on the iPad.
4. What is your motto in life?
Your past does not define your future.
5. How did you become an expert witness?
Through my old University friend Ian who worked as a witness. Unfortunately, he fell ill and asked his peers if any of us was available to look at a dog – I volunteered. We worked together from that point until his death.
6. Do you work for the prosecution or defence?
I have worked for both. I advertise in NEWA which is a register of expert witnesses and get some work from that. However, the majority of my work comes from the legal firm that Ian had worked closely with, although I am increasingly getting work from other sources. I find once a solicitor has used you, they often come back to you for similar cases.
7. What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I love seeing owners get their dog back. They often send me pictures of them all reunited, which is wonderful.
…and most frustrating?
Having to (politely) overcome some element of prejudice and ignorance in Court, although to be fair most of the judges and magistrates I have encountered have been entirely reasonable, intelligent people. It also frustrates me that most of the time the dog has ended up in trouble because somebody has just behaved stupidly and the dog has reacted completely normally.
8. If anyone wanted to pursue this career, what advice would you give?
You need to be able to produce a properly researched report, to understand dog behaviour and what factors motivate and maintain behaviour. The most important thing to remember is that your duty is to the Court, not to the person who is paying you, so you must be neutral and truthful. Trying to get some experience by shadowing a good expert witness is very useful.
Following a successful career in public relations, Ann decided to have a career change, qualifying as a dog groomer and took over a boarding kennels. Running a popular grooming and kennelling business in the North, Ann wanted to extend her services with dog training; she completed a BSc in Canine Behaviour and Training, followed by an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training at Bishop Burton College. During Ann’s time at Bishop Burton she met Ian McParland who worked as an expert witness for the Courts. Ian guided Ann through the process and sadly died two years ago. As a tribute and thank you to Ian, Ann plays some Pink Floyd (his favourite band) on her way home from every Court case.