Owner charged in Roseville dog mauling

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Authorities filed charges Thursday against the owner of the dog that mauled two people Sunday in Roseville.

Robert Laughton, 29, was arraigned in 39th District Court on two counts of owning a dangerous animal causing serious injury, both four-year felonies.

Robert Laughton, 29, was arraigned in 39th District Court on two counts of owning a dangerous animal causing serious injury, both four-year felonies.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said Laughton’s year-old pit bull terrier attacked Laughton’s mother, Suzette Laughton, and her boyfriend, Michael Mager, without provocation, causing injuries that required both to have multiple surgeries.

“I feel awful about the whole thing,” Robert Laughton said during the hearing. Bond was set at $5,000.

Suzette Laughton said in court she wanted her son to stay in the family’s house with her.

“I want him to stay with me, and Mike wants him to stay there too,” said Suzette Laughton. “(Mike) wants Robert to stay in the house, and he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to Robert, either.”

Judge Catherine Steenland told Robert Laughton not to purchase another dog until the case is over.

“I’m not judging you,” Steeland told Laughton. “At this point in time ... whether or not you did a good job with the dog or you didn’t, but the point of the matter is this did not work out well allegedly.”

If convicted, Robert Laughton could face four years in prison on each count of the charges against him and/or a $2,000 fine, as well as be ordered to do 500 hours of community service.

The attack occurred about 9 p.m. at the home in the 30600 block of Normal near 13 Mile and Utica.

Suzette Laughton said in court she wanted her son Robert to stay in the family’s house with her.

“I’m the same as most of you,” Smith said in a statement. “I grew up with dogs and love them dearly. But as owners we bear complete responsibility for the training and behavior of our animals, especially regarding their interaction with the humans they encounter. “With these powerful breeds, that responsibility is particularly acute. A single aggressive episode can result in life-ending tragedy.”

According to Smith, the dog, named Bruce, attacked Suzette Laughton, 52, when she tried to let it out of its cage. Her boyfriend, Michael Mager, tried to stop Bruce and was mauled.

Police, according to Smith, found Mager, 51, face-down in the home, covered in blood with the dog circling him.

A team of officers subdued the dog and then Mager was taken to the University of Michigan Hospital for treatment of severe injuries, including a severed artery, Smith said. Mager also lost the tops of his ears.

Paramedics initially feared Mager would lose both arms, the prosecutor said.

Suzette Laughton told police Bruce was not provoked or agitated before the attack, and no food was out that would have triggered any aggression, Smith said.

Robert Laughton has said he shouldn’t be blamed for the attack.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Laughton told The Detroit News in a Tuesday interview. “It’s not my fault. My dog was loved. He had toys. I did not abuse my dog. I didn’t make my dog vicious. My dog did what he did. He’s paid for it.”

Laughton described his dog as a retriever “bully mix.”

Laughton said Tuesday he was struggling to cope with the injuries to his mother and her boyfriend, and with the possibility of being charged.

“It’s emotionally overwhelming,” he said.

Laughton has said he wasn’t home when the attack occurred but his sister told him the horrific details.

Laughton said his mother and her boyfriend were sitting on the sofa with Bruce when the dog attacked his mother.

“The dog was licking on her. She put him down and he started attacking her,” Laughton said Tuesday.

According to police and prosecutors, Sunday’s incident wasn’t the first involving the dog.

Smith said that on April 19, Bruce attacked Suzette Laughton, opening a wound on her hand that required 30 stitches to close.

Police cited Robert Laughton for unlicensed dog and harboring a vicious animal, Smith said. Laughton also agreed to a 10-day order by the Macomb County Animal Shelter to quarantine the dog, then surrender it to the shelter to be euthanized May 1 — the day after the second attack, the prosecutor said.

Laughton has said he believes the Sunday incident was caused by a “neurological trigger” the dog might have been experiencing. Laughton added that he thought the dog bit his mom’s boyfriend out of fear.

“Bruce didn’t know what was happening, so he reacted. He loved my mom,” Laughton said Tuesday. “They were great friends.”

Laughton is scheduled to be back in court May 17 at 8:15 a.m. for a probable cause conference on the charges. He has a preliminary examination scheduled for May 24, also at 8:15 a.m. in 39th District Court in Roseville.