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Latest animal cruelty case exposes bureaucratic flaws

Published: Sun, November 2, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

As residents of the Mahoning Valley were trying to understand how an individual in the business of caring for dogs could allow seven to die of starvation and 12 to barely survive, officials responsible for enforcing cruelty to animal laws were embroiled in a jurisdictional dispute.

The owners of the dead and starving dogs discovered at High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road in Youngstown deserve better. The emotional turmoil they’re experiencing should not be exacerbated by bureaucratic flaws. We would hope there isn’t a repeat of what has occurred.

Rather than 19 counts of animal cruelty being filed against High Caliber K-9 owner Steve Croley, Youngstown city Prosecutor Jay Macejko filed charges relating to only four dogs. Why? Because Macejko concluded that Animal Charity humane agents had illegally entered the private property. As a result, the prosecutor concluded that he could cite Croley only for the four dogs that were seen from adjoining property by the agents before they used bolt cutters to gain access to High Caliber.

Had Animal Charity secured a search warrant through Macejko, then whatever agents found in the dog kennel would have been used to build the case against the owner.

The irony is that civilians can act to save animals in distress but agents acting on behalf of the state must follow the law if they expect criminal charges to be filed, the prosecutor says.

Therein lies the problem. There is something wrong when individuals, such as Animal Charity agents Kyle Zeigler and Joe Borosky, who are dedicated to protecting harmless animals, find themselves shackled by state laws that do not apply to ordinary citizens.


It should be pointed out that Nikole Owen, chief executive officer of Animal Charity, does not agree with Macejko’s reading of the law. Owen contends that her agents acted appropriately and, therefore, Croley should be charged with the 19 counts of animal cruelty. He has been arraigned on the four.

The dog kennel owner has said he could not afford to feed and look after the dogs that were kept in his care by their owners. He also said he cannot afford a lawyer.

But before taxpayers are required to foot the bill for a court-appointed lawyer, the prosecutor’s office should determine what happened to all the money that Croley’s clients paid in advance when they dropped off their dogs at the kennel.

Case in point: A couple from New York whose 3-year-old Rottweiler died of starvation say they paid more than $2,000 and also provided three months of food and vitamins when they left their dog for obedience training.

The couple read about the dead and starving dogs on Vindy.com, The Vindicator’s Web site, and came to Youngstown for their pet. They not only found out that he had died, but his weight had dropped from 105 pounds in late June to 50 pounds.

They have hired a lawyer.

There is a larger issue here than just the alleged criminal behavior of one individual. For many people, a pet is member of the family and leaving the animal in the care of an outsider requires a high level of trust. Therefore, standards that apply to such businesses must be strictly enforced.

The message must go out that mistreatment of animals will not be taken lightly.


1animallover(86 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I think this man is disgusting and a poor excuse for life.

He is right, where did all the money go? Did they ever search his property after the dogs were found? Did they ever go into his records? What about the issue of drugs? was he ever drug tested?

Justice must be served!

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2pamewame(48 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Shouldnt Steve Croley have to prove his statement that he couldnt afford to feed the dogs? He didnt look like he was starving!!!!! If economic times were so hard then why was he still running a business he couldnt support. Evidently he wasnt running it at all instead using the money for his own benefit...instead of using the money to take care of the dogs he killed and abused.

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3max340pug(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This is ridiculous-if this was a case involving people instead of dogs, there would be no red tape to contend with! These poor dogs should not have been treated any differently than human beings, this horrible, cruel man needs to be brought to justice, and there should be yet another search launched...what was the money & food given him by these dog's owners used for? Justice must be served here, PERIOD!

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4dobelover2(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This is the most god awful way to treat anything, to starve it to death for what reason? Lack of money I think not!! I personally knew that in the month of Sept alone he got over
$2,500... from myself and and other people that went there for training... and the people that sent him money checks for the care of and training of their animals... One of the dogs their belong to a guy in the special forces, she was a bomb sniff, nice ugh, saves or men and women in the service and ready to give up her life, for what? to be starved to death by someone who claims to have had a break down? Please, we all have gone through hard times, and getting a divorce is not hard times!!!!~ You go on, and find someone else, or am I wrong??? If he walks on any of these counts, the judge should be disbarred along with the anyone who has any legal ties with this mess... I understand that he is in jail, one can only hope that they keep him by himself and give him only what he needs to live on... If you try to call the numbers to find out if your dog is ok or to claim the remains, you get a recording and nobody calls you back, it's like the back woods of WV and I think they have more class... Here are the numbers, check it out and see what you all get, 330-788-1064 and 330-774-8881, and yes I am trying to claim the remains of a dog so that he can rest... The youngstown police dept, told me
I had to have to proper papers, great, what the heck are the papers they want? There isn't a soul that is breathing has called by back.. So what is one to think, that Youngstown, Ohio, does not give a crap!!!!

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5Abbysmom(5 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This man needs jail time & NOT BE ALLOWED AROUND animals ever again!!! This is the most cruelest unpardonable sin ever commited!!!!

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6pawprints(1 comment)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This is a horrible case of animal abuse. There is NO EXCUSE for not providing food or water to these dogs. To cause death, THIS ABUSE WENT ON OVER AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME. These dogs suffered a terrible death. Those who survived suffered horribly too. Where is the justice here? According to Macekjo what goes on behind closed doors is acceptable???? What country do we live in - CHINA???? I guess if 1000 dogs had been murdered, then no charges would have been filed if the property were entered without a search warrant???? Where is the justice here? Shouldn't we be protecting those who cannot defend themselves? Someone in the judicial system needs to be responsible, stand up and do the right thing here.

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7luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Why should taxpayers pay for his defense? He got caught red handed. I keep seeing people commenting how much money they gave him so why can't he pay for his own defense? What did he do with all this money? we know he didn't feed the dogs. I saw those haunting pictures of those poor defenseless dogs and I think of them every day and I pray for them and their families. I also think about how he continued to conduct business and would take in boarders. What did he do walk right past those that were starving and feed, give water to just the new ones? How cruel is this? Does anyone ever sit and think what these poor dogs went through? The suffering they had to endure. How cruel and inhumane. Why haven't any of the alive dog owners come forward to tell us what they have seen when they dropped and picked up their dogs? Something had to be noticeably wrong. None of this makes any sense and why are our laws protecting the criminal? This is all over the web and it's being spread like wildfire throughout the country and the world. I signed and read the comments people made on the petition which is now over 1,000 strong in only a few days. The world is watching and Mr.Prosecutor, Mr. Judge we are counting on you to do the right thing and prosecute this man for his horrific actions.

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8animallover(86 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I am soo sick of people defending this freak and his rights. Who defended these animals rights OR do you think they dont have any?

Do you know the full facts? Does anyone know the full facts? All we are getting is this prosecutors story, you have yet to hear from the humane agents. Nobody knows the full facts. AND IM SURE THEY DIDNT MISTAKE THE ANIMALS TO BE SLEEPING, what a stupid STUPID comment to make.

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9dittodots(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

These poor animals waited and waited for someone to take care of them. For someone to feed them and give them a drink of water. This person needs to be brought to justice for the most horrific crime of all. I do not believe for one moment that he didn't have the money to feed them. Especially when the owners of the dog stated that money was left for their care.

Let's hope justice is served and this man pays the price for what he's done.

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10sinthor(87 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I say an eye for an eye. then lets see if he likes it! hang him by his buster browns.

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11Maite(47 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"civilians can act to save animals in distress"

...herein lies the crucial crux of this matter. Any civilian may act as these rescuers acted, and be within the law. They are the same as any other civilian - they are human beings and they have compassion and disgust when faced with a scene such as they viewed on this fateful day. So WHY is the Law telling them they should have delayed taking emergency action??
WHAT Law, in our so-called Civilised Society, can justify that???

As pointed out here, monies were paid upfront for the care of the dogs at Croley's property.
Before any ridiculous and inhumane Law is set into effect, there should be a full investigation into where these monies went.
And why, if there were no funds available, this monster did not take the opportunity when his clients telephoned about the progress of their dogs, to explain his financial crisis and ask for the dogs to be collected.

Before allowing this creature ANY mercy, this latter point MUST be fully-investigated. At best, this is theft. At worst...well, I'm sure there are lawyers who could trump up charges to reflect what happened here, in the same way as they are laying all the blame currently on two individuals who were trying their best to preseve Life.

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12Maite(47 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago


"What ever happened to "innocent until PROVEN guilty"."

...HOW can this monster be innocent??
How do you think these dogs died??
Did little men from Mars zap down and kill them??


How can ANYONE claim that this is a possible case of "innocent until proven guilty"???

I am gobsmacked!!
That ANY human being should be so lacking in intelligence and common decency as to even entertain such an opinion!!!

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13animallvr(1 comment)posted 6 years, 11 months ago


You're kidding, right? When you have to go in and scrape a dog off the ground with a shovel because skin and bones is all that is left....he's not sleeping. Open your eyes! Don't stand on your high and mighty soap box and put down those that do what's necessary to save lives. If you saw a child lying there, would you pass by, or would you jump that fence and tresspass. These "do-gooders", as you so ignorantly put it, unlike you, go out every day and see the pain and suffering of these animals. They are not paid what they are worth and they continue to do their job to the best of their ability. And the Animal Charity that they work for is funded by donations. I don't know if people are aware but they are the only humane agents in Mahoning County. No, the Dog Pound has no authority, nor will they go out on calls such as this. They are not authorized to do so. So, while you're belittling the only people that stand up for those suffering animals take a good look at yourself. Your ignorance is unbearable. If they were wrong in doing what they did, they will learn from this mistake. But when people like you say they have no disregard for the law and think they are above it? You have some nerve. Doing what you think is right to save others is much more honorable than sitting back and belittling those that actually do the work.

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14gistol(72 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

ETBMFA: You want some facts & stats? Here are some:
* 70% of animal abusers accumulated 1 or more unrelated crimes and nearly
40% committed brutal crimes against people. MSPCA and Northeastern University inquiry, 1997
* The FBI red flags animal abuse when profiling homicidal suspects and identifies it as a stage along the animal-to-human violence continuum:
“Animal cruelty...is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual;this is a warning sign. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Allen Brantley
* Men prosecuted for animal cruelty are 5 times as likely to be arrested for other violent crimes. Extensive research by Frank Ascione, Utah State University professor of family and human development
* 71 to 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet
*Researchers in New Jersey found animal abuse in 88 percent of the families in which there was physical abuse of children
* Luke Woodham, 16, mortally stabbed his mother and shot
nine students. He later confessed to bludgeoning his dog Sparkle, flooding her throat with lighter fluid, and setting her neck on fire.
* Columbine school shooter Eric Harris, 18,smashed mice with a crowbar and set them on fire.
* Washington D.C. serial killer Lee Boyd Malvo killed stray cats with a slingshot.
* Kip Kinkle, 17, bombed squirrels and burned a live cat before he shot 25 classmates and murdered his parents in Oregon.
* Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson, both 13, brutalized dogs before killing five people in an Arkansas school rampage.

SO... ETBMFA..... let your buddy Steve free to abuse someone else. I guarantee this is not his first crime, just the one in which he was caught. He is disgusting as are you to defend the HORRIFIC way he TORTURED these poor animals.

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15animallover(86 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I think that this guy lost his rights the minute he decided to torture and kill those animals.

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16Maite(47 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I fully agree, animallover.

This is not the action of a civilised human being. I defy anyone to stand up for the rights of THIS man above those of the poor dogs he killed!!!

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17luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Have you seen the latest on the Nitrofoundation website? It seems there is a lady looking for her dog. It states name "Devil" a 4 year old gsd - black with white patch on chest. The dog was at High Caliber K9 but not found at Animal Charities. If anyone has any information, please give her a call.

My prayers are with Devil that he is alive and well and his Mom that he is returned safely and healthy. xoxoxoxoxoxo.....

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18luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

gistol - i heard he's out on bail - load the shotgun and lock the doors - I totally agree!

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19Maite(47 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Well I read somewhere that if he pays in cash, or not cash (I forget which), he ONLY has to pay 10% of the $20,000!!!

This is terrible!!!!!!!!!!!

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20grkfire(52 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

If you pay a bailbondman 10% of your bond, then he will put up your total bond. What do you think bondsmen do? Some of you people are so clueless. So yes, 2000.

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21bink(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

{As pointed out here, monies were paid upfront for the care of the dogs at Croley's property.
Before any ridiculous and inhumane Law is set into effect, there should be a full investigation into where these monies went.}

steve and his wife smoke crack and meth thats where the cash went!!!!! 2+2=4

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22dobelover2(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Binks is right, his wife should be sitting in the next cell along with Matt who owns the property, and had his business there, I do believe the sign used to say Signature K-9, did it not? This clown came up and cleaned the place out, and found things that should have been reported to the police and did he no, WHY? Was he in on it too?

And for all you defenders of Steve Croley, he was out on bond about 4 years ago in Indiana (Albion) around the holiday time and burn his kennel down there, and yes dogs died there too, so were they already dead there? nobody knows, but we do know they were here,in Youngstown, so was there going to be another kennel fire here in Youngstown soon? Same thing wifie left him.

He was suppose to be trainer for the Kiewell brothers than.
Check out this info, call the Albion police dept and the fire dept, and they will tell you there was a fire there 3 to 5 years ago, and they won't release any other info to the public, only to law enforcement. Why is that???

Once a druggie always a druggie, we breed some really sick people in OH. I never realized just how many go the PetAbuse.com and look for yourself....

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23bink(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Dobelover, This is all true. but Matt had nothing to do with this!!

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24luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

grkfire - where did he get the cash? I thought he had "no money to feed the dogs" and I love my dogs he stated.

It states above that he has no money for a lawyer and we have to pay for one. If you can't afford to feed dogs how can he pay $2,000.00 in cash?

Isn't lying to the police wrong? It seems he lies constantly and nothing is done about it. Why is this?

So do we as a society now condone slowly killing animals by dehydration and starvation, and lying to police?

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25ytowndoglvr(3 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

dobelover, this is not true. youngstown city police were called first , a walk through was done and a police report filed. matt has not lived in ohio for over 4 years and was renting this property to steve. steve croley was running his high caliber k-9 business on the property since 06, you can see records at ohio secretary of state. http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/reports/r...

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26dobelover2(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

ytowndoglvr, yes you are right the police where there. But they had Steve go in the house and get the dogs, not them, they did not check the house out! Matt did when he can up and cleaned, so he did not call the police when he found that crap, and I ask you why? I would have to have more charges if possible on the s.o.b., wouldn't you have? You need not get you name and this train to hell, if you would've done the right thing and reported it. Everyone would have thought you are a straight up guy.. Instead of trying to hide something... So Bink's what do you think now? Am I correct or not?

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27ytowndoglvr(3 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

matt had the youngstown city police come on morning oct 29 and do a walk through of the house and property with him and filed a police report. the police were first to enter the house that morning.

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28dobelover2(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

ytowndoglvr,you are incorrect, they did not turn things over, under the trash...go figure, the did not look in the basement for dead dogs either!

When was the last time he paid Matt rent monies, and didn't Matt pay his last phone bill?

And what about "Devil"? They haven't gotten any news on him, and Steve was trying to give her York after the animal was killed by the animal charity people because they deemed him aggressive. Ok is he in the back yard underground along with how many other dogs???? Has anyone checked this out? God knows they didn't check the house out for dogs. So what do you think know?

Has anyone seen or heard from his wife Donna Jean?

And who owns his van? Isn't it Matt, who you think put High Caliber K-9 on it for Steve, or at least gave him the money to do it..

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29ytowndoglvr(3 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

the police were there and walked through the house and saw everything to see. i do not know what more to say.

why dont you call and talk to him since you have so many questions. I am sure he would be more than willing to answer questions or concerns you may have instead of going on rumors.

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30dobelover2(7 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

whats the number to call?

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31grkfire(52 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

how in the hell am i supposed to know where he got the bond money? did i say i was his accountant? why are you directing these questions to me? wow, how moronic can you be? then you go off on some tangent that doesnt make sense.

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32luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

sorry grkfire I didn't mean to direct this to you, I am just so upset with all of this. He says he has no money, cannot feed the dogs he loves and was paid to care for, cannot afford an attorney so he needs a public defender, he lies to the police and now he has $2,000.00 for bail money.
That's a lot of dog food!
I am so upset that these dogs were made to suffer so and that so many of them died. I have nightmares.

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33grkfire(52 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

No problem, I agree. This is how it works when asking for a public defender. The judge asks the defendant if he can afford a lawyer, the defendant says no. The judge then asks what his source if income is, and if the defendant says he doesnt have a source, then the judge will appoint a lawyer. I agree, that is a bunch of bull. I dont want to pay for this guy's lawyer. Judges needs to do a better job of inquiring about a persons finances, and not just appoint lawyers to all of them. The defendant also must fill out a financial affidavit, and it is perjury if he lies on the form.

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34hurricaneV(6 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This man is a murderer, may God have mercy on his sole. No creature of God deserves to perish the way these poor soles did. He is very lucky it wasn't one of my dogs. Karma is a b*tch.

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35dittodots(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree 100% with voiceoftheanimals.

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36gistol(72 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I also agree voice. Also, check the clerk of courts site, he filed for Divorce last week. Must be a way to protect her from getting charged. He needs charged to the fullest extent. There is no excuse for the cruel acts he knowingly committed. What a disgusting pair he & his wife are.

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37ads(109 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

He needs to pay for killing these animals. I agree with an eye for an eye. Let him suffer like they did, no punishment will be enough for this poor excuse of a human being! Let him rot!

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38animallover(86 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

So today I read that the court date is this Thursday Nov 13 at 11:15am. I know that I will be there - everyone should be there for these animals.

Youngstown Municipal Court
26 South Phelps Street
Youngstown, Ohio 44503

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39luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

There is no way in "h e double L" that i'm falling for all of these stories myself. The laws were supposed to change 2 years ago I read that on Vindy and nothing was done and now they are letting this slide too promising they will change the laws after this one. What does this Prosecutor think we're all smoking crack? What about these animals? What about the neighbors or the people dropping their dogs off and picking them up? they didn't smell a thing? This monster didn't act crazy, drugged or anything? nothing out of the ordinary? I'm not buying any of this.

Remember Animals can't dial 911 - only we can - so let's help them. Justice must be served and this monster needs to be held accountable for his actions so that horrific acts like this never happen.

We are their voices.

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