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At cruelty pretrial, dog owner in gallery shows his disdain

Published: Fri, November 14, 2008 @ 12:10 a.m.

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Steve Croley

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Tom Siesto and his wife, Liz Raab with a tin containing Nitro’s ashes. The Rottweiler weighed 50 pounds when cremated; he weighed 105 pounds when taken to High Caliber K-9 in late June for obedience training. His owners said they paid more than $2,000 up front for the training and dropped him off with more than three months’ food and vitamins.

By Patricia Meade

Defendant Steve Croley must come to trial next month with a financial statement.

YOUNGSTOWN — A New York man whose dog, Nitro, starved to death at High Caliber K-9 held up a small decorative tin in municipal court and shouted, “Here’s Nitro!”

The tin contains Nitro’s ashes. The Rottweiler weighed 50 pounds when cremated; he weighed 105 pounds when taken to High Caliber K-9 in late June for obedience training. His owners said they paid more than $2,000 up front for the training and dropped him off with more than three months’ food and vitamins.

Steve Croley, who is accused of starving dogs at the Coitsville-Hubbard Road business, didn’t turn around at the outburst in the court’s gallery Thursday. He stared straight ahead during the commotion.

Judge Robert A. Douglas ordered Nitro’s owners, Tom Siesto and his wife, Liz Raab, who was crying loudly, to leave the courtroom. The judge warned those who remained to keep quiet.

Croley, 37, who resided at the business he operated, was in court for a pretrial hearing. He is charged with noxious odors, an exterior property violation and four counts of animal cruelty.

Two security guards were positioned in court out of concern that the proceeding might be disrupted. Several animal lovers who came to support Nitro’s owners cried softly but there were no further outbursts.

Judge Douglas set the trial for Dec. 18. He ordered that Croley come with a financial statement.

When taken into custody Oct. 22, Croley told a representative of Animal Charity, a humane agency on South Avenue, that he could not afford to feed the animals. Seven dead and 12 starving dogs were found at the business.

High Caliber K-9 offered kenneling, obedience and guard dog training. Since the arrest, dog owners have come forward to say they paid Croley in advance.

After court, Siesto and Raab, both 50, said they will be back for Croley’s trial. The couple lives in Queens, N.Y.

Holding the tin, Siesto said he wants to let people know how the poor animals at High Caliber K-9 suffered.

“This man did this,” Siesto said of Croley. “I’m very disappointed today. I thought this monster would have admitted what he did — he’s a coward.”

Of the dead dogs, Raab said: “We’re their voices.”

Croley was kept in a back room next to Judge Douglas’ court until the hallway cleared. Guards directed people away from the elevator, reserving it for Croley and his attorney, Heidi Hanni.

A red SUV picked Croley and Hanni up in front of the courts’ building on Boardman Street.

Croley was originally arrested on 19 counts of animal cruelty, but only four were actually filed. City Prosecutor Jay Macejko determined that the High Caliber K-9 property was illegally entered by representatives of Animal Charity, who used bolt cutters to cut a fence. The four counts relate to dogs seen before the fence was breached. The prosecutor said had he been called, he would have obtained a search warrant.

meade@vindy.com


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