The owner said he loves his dogs but couldn’t afford to feed them during the recent hard economic times.
YOUNGSTOWN — A professional sign in front of High Caliber K-9 advertising the services it offers was in stark contrast to the dead and starving dogs found in the backyard of the dog kennel.
The business at 1516 Coitsville-Hubbard Road promotes itself as a center for dog training, grooming and boarding.
It also offers “doggie day care,” underground fencing, dog importing and stud service.
Kyle Ziegler and Joe Borosky, Animal Charity humane agents, went to the business Wednesday afternoon after a woman called and complained that she couldn’t get her dog back from the man operating the place. The agents knocked but no one answered, so they got permission to look from the next-door neighbor’s backyard.
What they saw moved them to call police.
“We found seven dead and eight skinny, neglected dogs,” Borosky said. “We’re filing 15 counts of animal cruelty and animal neglect against the owner.”
Records show the business is operated by Steve Croley. He was expected to be arraigned today in municipal court.
Croley came out of his house when police arrived and was placed in the back of a cruiser to be questioned.
When asked if Croley had any explanation for dead and starving dogs, Borosky quoted the kennel operator as saying: “Times are hard, I can’t afford to feed them. I love my dogs.”
Borosky said Croley had four dogs of his own in the house — three German shepherds and a small mixed-breed. He said all are skinny.
Animal Charity, the humane agent said, is taking the position that the 15 dogs in the kennel area are not Croley’s.
All live dogs found on the property — including those from inside the house — will be at Animal Charity on South Avenue for the time being, Borosky said.
Borosky said anyone who had a dog at High Caliber K-9 should call Animal Charity at (330) 788-1064 to claim their animal.
“Even if their dog is dead, people have a right to know,” he said.
After taking the dogs, staff at Animal Charity found the animals were in worse condition than first believed. Some were aggressive against staff because of starvation, he said.
“For the safety of the animal, we’re not going to release the dogs until we’re sure they’re healthy,” Borosky said.
Ziegler said it’s not clear how long ago the seven dogs died. The veterinarian at Animal Charity would know more after post-mortem exams, he said.
The dead dogs included Doberman pinschers, pit bulls and two German shepherds, Borosky said.
Borosky said the eight remaining dogs, German shepherds, Dobermans, a mastiff and pit bull puppy, are barely alive, just skin and bones, and that four of them “might not make it.”
There was a little water in the kennel area and some food that had turned to “mush,” Ziegler said.