Owner of 12 Pit Bulls in Gruesome Attack on Detroit Man Unlikely to Face Criminal Charges

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

As the unidentified man who lay naked in a Detroit street after a gruesome attack by 12 Pit Bulls on October 2 still lies in a hospital bed in critical condition, Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody announced that the owner of the dogs, Derrick Felton, has been issued only some misdemeanor citations and  is not likely to face any criminal charges.

Sgt. Woody agreed that the case was “horrifying” but told the Detroit News  it appears there was no malicious intent on behalf of Felton, 61, who was not home at the time of the attack.  

The victim--later identified by his roommate as Steve Constantine, 50-- suffered such severe wounds to his hands and feet that reports said the dogs had “chewed them off” during  the attack.

The Pit Bulls were so vicious that police were forced to shoot and kill one to stop the attack on the victim. The remaining dogs were then penned up in a nearby house, where they lived.

Apparently Detroit officials did not find grounds for charges of criminal negligence, although neighbors had complained to police a number of times about Felton's dogs running loose and their fears that someone would be harmed by them; and Animal Control reported that none of the dogs were licensed.

According to Sgt. Woody, all 12 dogs are believed to have participated in the attack. Although neighbors had complained they were loose, there were no prior reports of the dogs injuring anyone.

Had that occurred, it could have provided the basis for the reasonable expectation that the owner would know the dogs were--or could be--dangerous.

“We don’t have any real criminality here to suggest that the owner would be arrested for the mauling,” said Sgt. Woody.

But that was not a satisfactory response, said Ron Gulledge, who is Steve Constantine's roommate. A misdemeanor ticket isn't sufficient punishment after what happened to his friend.

"You are responsible for your actions. You are responsible for your dogs, no ifs, ands or buts," Gulledge said.

The investigation lead the police to believe that the dogs escaped through a side door of the home in the 4500 block of Pennsylvania and attack Constantine, according to Sgt. Moody.

Referring to Felton, he said, "This isn't a man who opened his door up (so his dogs would) attack a naked man in his yard. There's more to it than that,"  

Woody indicated that the investigation was hampered by the fact that there were no eyewitnesses other than Constantine, who has been unable to speak about the incident.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Police believe the dog owner was squatting at the house near where the attack occurred. Sgt. Woody said Felton was negligent and a hoarder with a rubbish-filled yard, but that isn't enough to warrant criminal charges.

Woody said the 11 dogs-- including four puppies--that were seized from the house have been euthanized and tested for rabies, but he declined to discuss the test results.

Felton was arrested Friday, after the attack, at his home and was held initially at the Wayne County Jail on an unrelated warrant for allegedly failing to pay child support.  He was ordered released by an attorney for the Wayne County Friend of the Court on Tuesday, according to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Information on the child support case was not immediately available, the Detroit Free Press reports, although county court records indicate that Felton had several different inactive paternity cases.


Although the attack on Steve Constantine occurred on Thursday, October 2, Ron Gulledge, the friend with whom he was staying just one street over, did not learn that Constantine was still alive until Monday.

Gulledge told the Free Press he rushed to the Detroit Receiving Hospital and sat with him for about an hour, "I talked to him and told him to be strong … and he nodded."

Constantine, who was already on disability according to Gulledge,  definitely sustained extremely severe injuries in the attack, but they are not quite as bad as first described:

Gulledge said only a small portion of Constantine's upper left arm remains, his left leg now has rods in it, his right leg and arm as well as a good portion of his head are heavily bandaged.

It appeared to Gulledge that Constantine still has his feet and his right hand, although he could not see all of his fingers and toes.

He described his friend as “mangled,” states the Free Press.

Constantine is now breathing on his own, Gulledge said, but he is fed through a tube and is unable to speak.

"He's fighting (but there's) still a long ways to go."

This tragedy emphasizes the necessity for residents of all communities to immediately and continually report stray, loose and aggressive dog and any signs of animal cruelty or neglect.  It is as important to the safety and care of the animals as it is to the humans or pets that may become victims. It is also vital to keep logs of when reports or complaints are made and the outcome and share such information with neighbors.

It is never too early to start a record on a potentially dangerous animal or an irresponsible owner.  And, as evidenced in this case, if any injury is inflicted by an animal, it should be reported promptly so that it becomes a permanent record to support future charges, if necessary.

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Sources: Free Press, Detroit News