Pet project: Defense attorney goes to the dogs


By Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

Paul S. Clark, partner with Clark & Schoenbeck in Hazel Park, has always felt the need to protect victims, especially when the balance of power is stacked against them.

“In criminal defense, a person is not guilty simply by being charged, and I have experienced many times where the weight and force of the state against an individual is so lopsided that were no attorney involved, innocent people would greatly suffer,” he says.

His outreach extends from people to pets. Clark, who specializes in civil and criminal litigation with an emphasis on criminal defense and personal injury, became concerned about the welfare of dogs when he rescued his first Rottweiler about 30 years ago. Sadly, his four-legged friend would be stolen 2-1/2 years later.

“Imagining what was happening to him drove me to want to help rescue other animals in need, particularly Rottweilers,” he says.

“This is a misunderstood breed and far and away one of the best family pets available. However, they are not for everybody. If you treat them like a person, you will find yourself miserable. Treat them as a dog and you will find a much different relationship,” says Clark who has assisted different Rottweiler organizations over the years. 

“Most of my involvement with these animals has been to adopt them, two or three at a time,” he explains.

In addition, Clark, a graduate of Detroit College of Law, has donated his time to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Legal Aid sponsored by Bodman Longley.

Max, who came from a Rottweiler rescuer, turned out to be one of the most amazing animals he has ever owned, while Goliath, who came through an acquaintance, needed a new owner.

After being unable to find a home for Goliath, Clark decided to keep the dog that would grow to be 135 pounds and later be diagnosed with osteosarcoma which led to the amputation of a leg.

“We would get all kinds of stares…but he was one of the kindest dogs,” he says.

Chaney was another rescue that took animal control 10 days to catch and almost two years for Clark to get her to socialize. He took her in when she was 6 and she lived to be 15. Athena, who was rescued from a hoarding situation, came to him weighing 64 pounds, with little fur, long nails and severe hip dysplasia. Though she still has some issues, she is now a happy and healthy 85-pound Rottweiler.

For all of his efforts, Clark gets plenty in return.

“Pets add a spiritual component that you cannot get from a human being,” he says. “I cannot recall one argument that I have had with any of the dogs nor a time when I wasn’t given unconditional love and trust.”

He has some advice for those considering animal rescue.

“Be prepared. Many of these dogs were given up for a reason, usually because the owners either could not handle them or expected the dogs to simply train themselves and always be on good behavior,” Clark says.

“Be prepared to be the alpha of the house, or a rescue, or any dog can make life difficult as they will think they are the boss and treat you as a lackey.”

Clark believes there is more to life than chasing the almighty dollar.

“Helping others is more fulfilling than simply working all day,” he says.

His girlfriend, Lori Schotten, who lives with him, agrees. She just happens to rescue cats.

Schotten, who owns Chroma Salon & Color Bar in Farmington Hills, says when she first met Clark, he had three gigantic Rottweilers.

“It was a little intimidating, but they all passed the test,” she says. “Paul puts up with me and my cat fostering too.”

The couple currently has three dogs and six cats.

“He feeds everybody, morning and night and he takes the dogs to the park,” Schotten says.

“They are so excited and happy when he comes home. They go crazy when he pulls in the driveway.”

People seem to appreciate Clark, too.

“He’s really funny and everybody likes him,” says Schotten. “He has a really good heart.”