It was about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 when a pack of up to 12 pit bull and mixed-breed dogs mauled 50-year-old Steven Constantine to near death in Detroit.
He spent almost a month in Intensive Care.
“It was worse than your worst nightmare,” Constantine’s sister, Katherine Hawley of Shelby Township, told MLive Detroit Monday.
Constantine, who narrowly survived, remains hospitalized facing numerous surgeries.
“He lost his left arm just below his shoulder; they tried to reattach his left leg but they had to amputate that four days ago … ” Hawley said. “They managed to save his right arm … The dogs literally ate the large muscle and tendons in his forearm … They reattached the foot to see if they can save it.”
The dogs bit off Constantine’s right ear, but fortunately did not impact his ability to hear and did not disfigure his face, Hawley said.
Constantine received skin grafts and the numerous bight marks on the crown of his head continue to heal.
Constantine told police when interviewed 11 days after the attack that he was walking past a house on the 4500 block of Pennsylvania in east Detroit and saw the dog owner, Derick Felton, opening a large bag of dog food for his pack of dogs.
Constantine knew Felton, whom he referred to as a friend, from the area and referred to him by the nickname “Butch.”
Felton said, “just seen him around the block and at the liquor store,” when asked by police how he knew Constantine.
Mark Bernstein, an attorney for Farmington Hills-based Sam Bernstein Law Firm is representing Constantine in a $25,000-plus lawsuit against the dog owners, Derrick and Elizabeth Felton.
Bernstein provided MLive with statements made to police after the attack by both Derrick Felton and Constantine.
“I asked if I could help feed the dogs,” Constantine told police. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ I started opening the bag, then the dogs started attacking and eating me alive.”
Felton said he couldn’t get the dogs off Constantine and went inside his home once medics arrived. The medics, fearing the dogs would attack them, stayed in their ambulance until police arrived, shooting and killing one. The gunfire ended the attack, sending the remaining dogs scurrying back into Felton’s house.
“When you look at the way this mauling occurred, it suggests that the dog owner did nothing to assist our client,” said Bernstein,” that he essentially left the scene … while Steve was pleading for help.”
Detroit police killed one animal at the scene and 11 were subsequently euthanized by Detroit Animal Control. Police identified the dogs as pit bulls.
Felton admitted to owning “about 15” dogs, with the puppies included.
“Because I want to,” Felton told the investigator when asked why he owned so many.
Detroit law limits the number of adult dogs at a single residence to four. A code violation is punishable by up to 20 days in jail and/or a $250 fine, according to the Code of Ordinances.
The Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office is reviewing the case for possible criminal charges and has asked the Detroit Police Department for further investigation.
The Feltons are not currently charged with any crimes, Worthy spokeswoman Maria Miller said Monday.
Constantine told police he’s seen the dogs outside their yard before and they “go after people.”
“They bark and growl a lot,” Constantine told police. “Sometimes Butch will hit them or not feed them for a long time.”
After the interview, police asked Constantine if he could sign his statement.
“No,” Constantine said, “I don’t have a hand, and I can’t use my other one.”
A Brother in Need
Hawley said she’s been at the hospital 6-8 hours a day since the attack helping Constantine, who is unable to handle the most basic tasks, such as bathing, feeding himself or dressing.
“He can’t even hold water to his lips,” she said.
It’s a role Hawley’s familiar with, helping take care of her brother, but never to this extent.
“(My brother) graduated with honors fom Mott Junior College in Warren” but developed “mental illness in early 20s, so he has lived with myself and/or my brothers most of his adult life,” Hawley said Monday. ” he went missing a little over a year ago and we desperately tried to find him …
“The way we heard about this horrific incident is the Detroit Free Press called me five days after Steve was lying in the bed as John Doe.”
Constantine has a long road ahead, but Hawley hopes this attack will influence owners to take greater responsibility for their pets.
“This is not about pit bulls, this is about people, it is about irresponsible actions that (Felton) should be held accountable” for, said Bernstein. “Enough is enough. This type of reckless conduct is completely irresponsible in our community, or any community … ”
When Felton’s interview with police concluded, the officer asked, “Is there anything else you want to say?”
“Why are you taking my dogs,” he replied. “I got nothing else to say to you, man.”