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Ohio’s in line for stricter laws against animal abuse

Published: Fri, February 13, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

Ohio’s in line for stricter laws against animal abuse

It’s been tried before and failed, but that is no reason to give up.

It is passage of an Ohio law that would elevate acts of extreme animal abuse to a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.

The most recent attempt at toughening abuse statutes was a bill introduced in the last session of the Legislature by state Reps. Courtney Combs, R-54th, and Brian Williams, D-41st. The legislation died in committee last March.

This month, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and City Prosecutor Jay Macejko asked state Reps. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, and Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, to introduce a similar bill.

The need for tougher laws became a Youngstown issue after seven dead and 12 starving dogs were discovered in October at High Caliber K-9, a kennel on Coitsville-Hubbard Road. Through a variety of missteps, the owner, Steve Croley got off with just four months in jail. Only four misdemeanor charges were pursued, and through a plea bargain he got off with less than the maximum sentence on those.

Had the law provided for felony charges, prosecutors would have been in a position to drive a harder bargain.

The penalty now for first-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty is up to six months in jail. If a fifth-degree felony is added to the law, the penalty would be six months to one year in prison.

Three-pronged attack

An advocacy group for stronger penalties, the Coalition for Animal Justice, says there are three weak links in the justice system that need to be strengthened.

Investigation: Animal cruelty investigations are usually not handled by the police. They are handled by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or animal control officers who are not necessarily trained or focused on pursuing criminal charges against animal abusers.

Prosecution: Too few prosecutors vigorously pursue conviction in animal abuse cases or seek the toughest penalties provided by law.

Sentencing: The maximum sentences for cruel and intentional violent crimes against animals do not fit the crime in severe cases, and the minimum sentences amount to a slap on the wrist.

Ohio is one of a minority of states that does not provide for a felony charge on a first instance of animal abuse, regardless of how cruel or extreme the case may be. That should change.

Ohio lawmakers might also consider the established link that’s been found between animal abuse by young people and later acts of violence or cruelty against people. Requiring psychological evaluation of juveniles who are found to have tortured animals would be to the benefit of the juveniles, their families and society at-large.

The only good that could come out of the abuse and death of the dogs Steve Croley was supposed to be caring for would be an animal protection law that would bring Ohio into line with most other states.


1Abbysmom(5 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I believe the laws ought to be felonies for animal abuse.

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2janna(11 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

This was an appalling tragedy, that amounts to wanton and deliberate cruelty. These animals had feelings and were left to starve slowly and horribly to death - can you even begin to imagine what that must feel like??!!

New laws will not bring back the animals that Croley killed, but maybe will prevent other families suffering tragic and unnecessary losses such as these families did.

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3luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

It's about time Ohio wake up. How many poor animals have to suffer and die before the 125 year old inadequate laws get changed? If the laws were changed last year, this man and other abusers wouldn't have received just a slap on the wrist.

The High Caliber K9 tragedy proves what the Coalition for Animals stated, Investigation handled by agents with no training, no search warrant and 12 charges of animal cruelty dropped. A joke plea deal and a short probation period.

Anyone that does these horrific things to animals clearly demonstrates their capability to hurt people as well. Regardless of age they should be psychologically evaluated and obtain counseling in every effort to protect society.

No animal should have to endure this and it's our job to protect them. We can't let the next animal abuser walk away with an inadequate punishment. The time for change is now.

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4Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

And the cows say. "Eat more chic'n."

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5animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Finally we woke up and realized we need tougher laws.. Croley murdered those dogs and his sentence is a joke! He should have gotten much moere jail time.

Like i have said before Croley will Youngstowns next serial killer

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6pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Ohio needs to catch up with the rest of the country. Most states already have laws making animal cruelty a felony. To think that a state that is suppose to be so politically ahead of other states is still living in the dark ages concerning animal abuse. New laws wont change the past but it sure will help so much in the future. Make a difference Ohio!!!!!

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7shastashadow(3 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Pets have rights too and it is about time Ohio gave it to them.. they can not speak and Ohio needs to put things in perspective to make sure that nothing like this Croley case is ever experienced again. Make the laws so severe, there is no mistake in anyone's mind it is murder plain and simple and will be punishable as such. Give a voice to animals Ohio and make a difference to how our animals are treated.
This is the 21st Century....get out of the past...

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8GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Are you people really serious? There are multitudes of laws on the books for crimes that humans commit against each other and now we have to enact more legislation to protect animals. Fine, I am not advocating animal cruelty and honestly find it repugnant, but everyday the news is filled with crime that can't be controlled. So I guess my question is,what good will more laws do when we can't even enforce the ones that are already on the books? I think more attention should be paid to crimes against those of us that actually chose to go to school and work for a living. Enough said.

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9scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Um Shasta, show me were in the bill of rights it addresses animals? Animals DO NOT have rights although I do feel anyone deliberately hurting animals should be punished.
Let's just enforce the laws we already have on the books huh? Where do you think we are going to put the "criminal" who forgot to feed their dog? Our prisons are already overcrowded to the point we are letting real criminals back out on the streets.
Give me a break-that's probably why it's failed before.

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10baboo(43 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Maybe it will take some guy doing a lamb like in PA to get the law passed.

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11gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Animal Abuse is used as a profiling tool by the FBI for violent crimes. An overwhelming majority of vicious criminals convicted of rape & murder have history of animal abuse. Battered Women's Shelters state that over 80% of women claim that their abusers have also killed or mistreated the family pet. It is fact.
So for GEOMAR, Scrooge and other who think that Animal Abuse is not a "real" crime, think again. By treating animal abuse as a 'light' crime it is giving them a free pass to take their crime up a notch and commit murder or rape on a person. Animals are defenseless and have feelings. Any slug that finds joy in torturing a defenseless animal is someone to fear. It disgusts me to think anybody could defend crimes committed against animals. Animals need protected and for those of you who do not love animals & agree with that, think about the facts - first it may be the family pet, if they get away with that, the crime will escalate beyond the pet and onto a human.

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12GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Gistol- I never said animal abuse was not a real crime. The argument that you give has some credence but that is the only valid argument that people can seem to come up with. I don't condone animal cruelty anymore than I do violence against ones fellow man but don't you think that we have enough laws that aren't being followed and do you seriously think that by adding laws this will cut down on animal abuse? It sure hasn't slowed down all the rapes, robberies and homicides I read of on a daily basis,so before we go on an all out vendetta against people who may hurt an animal why don't we trying cleaning up the real trash by using the existing laws already on the books. It appears to me that the average American thinks that he can do two things - Stop crime by writing more laws and spending their way out of debt. Neither seem to work very well.

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13gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Geomar, Not trying to be argumentative, but when you say things like "cleaning up the real trash" I take that as meaning Animal Abusers are not "real" criminals. You are right, that people still break the laws regardless of what is on the books as law. On the other hand, when someone is punished for a crime it puts them away so they cannot do it again and can make another think twice about doing it. Yes there are some who will still commit crimes regardless of what laws are out there, but does that mean we should throw up our hands and say 'oh well.. I give up'? Absolutely not. If there was a repeat sex offender out there with no laws to punish this person or put them away, would say 'oh well, he'll rape again. Let him go.' I doubt it.

Animal Abuse is a real crime and in my opinion the most avoidable, yet deliberate crime! Nobody is forced to be a pet owner, so for those who starve these poor animals to death or kick and beat animals is actually a pre-meditated and truly sick crime. These people seek out owning a pet or scour the neighborhood looking for a victim. THAT is scary. There are animal shelters everywhere that would take in a pet if someone could not afford theirs, making the excuse of starving a pet unexcusable. There is no excuse for mistreating an animal. Those who do are truly sick individuals and need put away before their crimes elevate to another level.

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14GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Gistol- Lets me try to make my point in another way. Rapists, burglars, drug hounds... are predators. They too scour neighborhoods looking for somebody to harm. If I have to choose between allocating police efforts to look for a potential animal abuser or rapist I think that a rapist, murderer, drug dealer, etc., would be my priority. I am not saying that animal abuse is not a crime or a 'real' crime, but priorities must be in place and common sense should prevail. Personally I think animals were better off before man tried to domesticate them. I also don't think that it is the most avoidable or deliberate crime. That to me is an all encompassing statement. If you were to follow that line of thought then the other crimes committed against ones fellow man are not deliberate acts of cruelty but merely acts of negligence or something out of necessity, neither of which is acceptable. Before we start cramming the jails full of people who kicked their dog in anger, for example, maybe we should focus on the parent who kicked their child in anger because that's where the real abuse begins. Mommy kicked me so I'm gonna kick the dog. I am sure you have heard the term S---- rolls down hill. Well the hilltop is in the home and the bottom is where a parent puts one of these kids. People need to get to the root of the problem but it should be evident to you as well as others that this society is not well prepared, funded, or capable of dealing with the social problems that permeate this society. Adding another set of laws on top of already existing laws is tantamount to stupidity and will only make you feel good. Reality wise it will do nothing. People break laws everyday so how will more laws prevent anything more from occurring? Society, as I stated earlier, needs to get to the root of the problem, but is too ill-equipped to do so. These problems and all of society's ills have plagued us since man began walking the earth and there is no one law that will stop any man from doing that what he wants to do. It's like the old saying goes, "Locks were meant to keep honest people out". Laws keep the honest man in check but the criminal has no regard for the law. If he did there would be no crime.

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15gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler,” who killed 13 women, trapped dogs and cats and shot arrows at them through boxes in his youth.

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had impaled frogs, cats, and dogs’ heads on sticks.

Dennis Rader, the so-called “BTK” killer, who terrorized people in Kansas, wrote in a chronological account of his childhood that he hanged a dog and a cat.

During the trial of convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, a psychology professor testified that the teenager, who killed 10 people with a rifle, had “pelted—and probably killed—numerous cats with marbles from a slingshot when he was about 14.”

The deadly violence that has shattered schools in recent years has, in most cases, begun with cruelty to animals. High-school killers such as

15-year-old Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon, and Luke Woodham, 16, in Pearl, Mississippi, tortured animals before starting their shooting sprees

Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot and killed 12 classmates before turning their guns on themselves, spoke of mutilating animals to their classmates

“There is a common theme to all of the shootings of recent years,” says Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University. “You have a child who has symptoms of aggression toward his peers, an interest in fire, cruelty to animals, social isolation, and many warning signs that the school has ignored.”
Sadly, many of these criminals’ childhood violence went unexamined—until it was directed at humans"

I agree with your opinion of getting to the root of the problem. Animal Abuse is a clear sign of a dangerous individual. To defend one's actions of 'kicking the family dog out of anger' is a major problem in society. A normal adult expresses their anger in non-violent ways, unlike the disturbed individuals who take out anger on living creatures. To say that laws do not prevent crimes may be true in some cases, but does that mean we should take all laws off the books because some will ignore them? Speeders still speed, rapists still rape, so let's get rid of the laws - crazy, huh? There are some disturbed people who ignore the laws on murder and rape, that does not make the law a moot point that should not be enforced. Animal Abusers need held to the fullest extent of the law. Those who feel as if it makes them a bigger person to beat up a pet, needs serious mental evaluation.

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16GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

OK, so you just made my point. In quoting your statement, "many of these criminals childhood violence went unexamined-until it was directed at humans" just shows that this society does not have the ability to monitor every aspect of human life. It is also a very vague statement when their is no direct evidence to say that people 'spoke of' committing a crime versus a factual basis of 'yes we know he did it'. It is also evident that this is becoming more and more the responsibility of the school, rather than the parent, to say a child has a problem. Teachers can't even do their jobs anymore because of these kids and the rampant lack of respect that is being exhibited against them, especially in the inner city schools. In as much as I agree with you that cruelty to animals is wrong the actual cause of the problem began somewhere else. Bad behavior and good behavior are both traits that are learned at a very young age. We can debate this issue back and forth endlessly but to quell any problem you must get to the root cause of the problem and I am afraid that will never happen. As for taking the laws off the books, I never said anything like that. What I did say is why add dozens of more new laws when we can't even enforce that which is already there. Yes, make every attempt to enforce whats there and do your best with what you have but as long as man walks this earth you could write a dozen laws a day and it would change absolutely nothing. I have ideas and thoughts on this topic,but honestly, no answer.

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17gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I am unclear on how I made your point. Your reference to the quote by Dr. Koplewicz contradicts your earlier statements regarding the root of the problem. The point here is that animal abusers are overlooked and the cruels acts they perform are ignored. Problems escalate by ignorance and lack of concern. If you look into the history of armed robbers, I am sure there is history of petty thefts or stealing from family that they got away with before they decided to rob a bank at gunpoint.

Who's fault it is for problem kids and problem adults is irrelevant. Blame the parents, blame the teachers, who cares just STOP further criminal acts. How is that done? By law.

Enforcing the law does put a stop to some crime. Yes, there are some that are not reformable, but just because a percentage chooses to live a life of crime does not mena they should not be punished! Time will tell, but how likely do you think it will be for Michael Vick to start up another dog ring? He lost his high-paying career, his reputation and 23 months of his life in a prison because he chose to abuse animals for his own sick games. If he had not been punished, MORE dogs would be dead today and still fighting today. With that, how can you say that punishing an abuser should not be done?

To pick apart every word from that article such as 'spoke of' the crime is a total stretch at best. I have to wonder, why the defense over not enforcing the law on Animal Abusers? If you claim to find animal cruelty as 'wrong', how can you not see that it should be a punishable offense? Your comments are very contradictory and I cannot help but wonder why you feel Animal Cruelty should be allowed by a court of law?

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18luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

As I read some of the comments, I will admit how disappointed I am, how could anyone condone harming animals? or question why we need tougher laws and stiffer penalties. While I agree some monsters, no matter what the laws are, will commit crimes I honestly do feel that some people will think twice before abusing an animal if they know the punishment is serious.

I do believe Michael Vick will not set up another dog ring and I believe many will not follow his footsteps because of the punishment he received. I do wonder though what if this happened in Ohio - what sentence would Michael Vick have received? 4 months in jail like Steve Croley? I ask you to consider this when you state and believe new laws aren't necessary. Maybe this is why crime is so out of control because no examples are being set forth and weak plea deals are being made.

In this horrific Steve Croley case there was 1 mishap after another, the authorities should be ashamed of themselves as they allowed this man to get a slap on the wrist and exposed the weak Ohio animal laws for what they truly are - OUTDATED!

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19JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I don't see any posts that condone animal cruelty. State law can (and should) certainly be amended to bring more harsh penalties to those convicted of the crime but it really doesn't matter if those whose job it is to liberate these animals don't understand how the process works. Regardless of the potential penalties that could have been levied in this case most of the charges were thrown out because proper procedures that even Barney Fife could grasp weren't followed in entering the property and gathering evidence.

My compliments to GEOMAR and gistol for their thoughtful and reasonable discussion.

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20GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

gistol - Who is to blame for the problems that were created in these kids, adults, criminals of any sort is relevant. How can I make a determination as to whether a person is a possible future criminal if I don't have enough sufficient data on my hands to say that, yes, maybe that kid will be a criminal? It is not a matter of placing blame on anything or anybody but more a matter of finding the source of the problem. Lets say you see ants in your house and you spray them. Tomorrow they are back and you spray them again. This will repeat itself time and time again until you finally figure out that if you destroy the nest,(the source of the problem) you will finally get rid of the ants. That is the point I have been trying to make. The spray is the law that you administered but if you just keep spraying the same trail without following it back to where the source is you just keep killing ants each and every day and yet tomorrow they will still come back. This was a problem that could have been solved if it were not for the ignorance of the individual holding the can of spray. Today the law is a can of Raid but that didn't work. Tomorrow the law is a can of DCON a tougher spray(law) but that still did not work. The next day it is DDT(stronger law, harsher penalty). None of it will work until you get to the source of the problem,(in this case the nest). Do you understand my point when I say finding the source of the problem,(the nest) is more relevant then just using a stronger spray(the law). And please understand I never, ever said do not enforce the laws on any one particular topic including the abuse of animals. Nor did I ever say that it is not or should not be a punishable offense. Nor did I ever state that animal cruelty should be a non-punishable offense and disregarded by law, so please read my posts thoroughly before taking my statements out of context. None of those things were ever stated by me. I agree wholeheartedly that any crime against man or animal is by far a punishable offense but I must also let sensibility dictate in that if my dollars are to be spent in the employment of a police force and they are spending time working the kicked puppy case in lieu of the kid kicked case then in my eyes there is a problem because eventually that kid who got kicked will become the kicker,(and I don't mean in football.) JeffLebowski made an excellent point when he pointed out the procedures in this case were improperly handled. It is not always what the law is but the way in which it is administered. There are way too many loopholes and not enough ways to stop them when it comes to countering the charges of law against a criminal. As I said before this can be an endless discussion but in my eyes the only way to kill a snake is chop its head off. I don't have the answers just the the thoughts.

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21gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

JeffLebowski -thank you. And yes - this case was improperly handled from the start up to the prosecutor.
Geomar, Sounds as if we are trying to make the same point (get to the root of the problem) but have different views on what the 'root' is. I agree that a person's upbringing creates a mold for what a person will grow up to be. I agree that seeing bad behavior (kicking a dog, beating your wife, beating the child, doing drugs, etc..) will have a negative affect on a child and therefore create a higher likelihood of that child growing up to mimic those same bad behaviors. I, too, wish there was a way to stop children from growing up in bad homes, but unfortunately, I can see no way for that to be done 100%. School officials do have rights and obligations to report to Children's Services if they feel a child is being neglected or abused - but sometimes before it's noticed, it's too late. Neighbors, family and friends should also speak up if they see something wrong that needs attention, yet sometimes people don't want 'to get involved'. Some poor children will be saved and others will walk a rough road.

I never said to make a determination if someone will be a future criminal. My point in bringing up a sample of violent criminals who committed horrific crimes and showing their history of animal abuse is to prove my point that Animal Abuse is often a big piece to the puzzle of the minds of these horrible people. Maybe if the BTK Killer would have been in prison for hanging dogs and cats, he wouldn't have been free to murder those people. Maybe if somebody woud have noticed Dahmer's scarily odd behavior and punished him for walking around with Animal's heads on sticks, the human lives would not have been lost as he would have been in prison. Those who abuse animals do so as a way of 'control' - same as men who beat their wives. When a person finds joy in torturing an animal, soon they will get bored and move on to a larger victim, a child, a person. Animal abusers should not be ignored and need treated like any other murder or assault criminal.

My thoughts and opinions are 2-fold. One side is knowing that animal abuse is a foreshadowing of more crimes to come and therefore needs punished as if the crime was committed on a human. My other thoughts center around my love for animals and complete lack of understanding how anybody could find joy in mistreating and animal. Nobody forces you to own a pet. If someone cannot afford pet food, call a shelter. If you do not want the pet or like it anymore? Call a shelter. If you do not want to clean up after an animal? Call a shelter. That is why I also believe that Animal Abuse is a completely deliberate and avoidable crime, making abusers not only guilty of assault and/or murder, but pre-meditation which makes it even worse. When a person deliberately takes in a pet and then abuses it - that is pre-meditation and should be punished more severely.

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22GEOMAR(29 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

gistol-I know we have been on the same page all along and you are correct in saying that there are several ways to attack a problem. I do disagree, to an extent, that all abuse is premeditated. Not all of it is though. Some people lash out in anger and unfortunately either strike their spouse or pet. It is an unfortunate circumstance and sometimes rage is not controllable. That's where the term blind rage comes to play. A deliberate act is not always premeditated either. There are several extenuating circumstances when it comes to proving that rule and it is often more difficult than people think. I do agree that the individual who goes out of their way to kick the neighbors cat because they don't like cats has a problem and it should be dealt with accordingly. None the less this is one of the few times that I have actually enjoyed posting and thank you for your maturity in expressing your point of view. It is good to communicate with a total stranger and not be insulted because there is a disagreement in one's form of logic or opinion. Thanks again and maybe one day, hopefully, there will be an end to all of this craziness in our world.

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23gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Geomar - I hope one day this world IS a better place as well! Yes, I, too enjoyed the dialogue and mature discussion. It's easy to take quick shots when you're anonomous, but points comes across much clearer through rational conversation. Enjoy your day and let's pray that abuse of all kind, human or animal, is stopped.

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24XFilesX(77 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

WOW! Kudos to GEOMAR and gistol for their thought provoking and mature discussion on this forum. I had given up on this site some time ago to hear anyone talk intelligently, without taking any pot shots or being ignorant. You have restored my faith in this all. You have set the bar for all to follow.

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25pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

This is purely my opinion...its not necessarily making more laws. Its a matter of taking the laws you have and making the punishment harsher. What once would of been a misdemeanor, you make it a felony with stiffer penalties. Example: If you fine me $5 for speeding 20mph over the limit..not much of a deterrent but if you fine me $200 for the same offense would it not be reasonable to say that I might just think about it twice before committing the same offense?? For too long stiffer penalites have given way to plea bargains, which reduces the deterrent. For some, regardless of the penalty they will commit crimes but for some the severity of the punishment will be the deterrent. You have to know up front what the possibilities are for any actions whether it be positive or negative behavior. We all must be involved in working toward a better world. Regardless of the situation everyone can do something. No matter how small or large we must all comtribute to the betterment of society.

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26max340pug(11 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

My opinion here is, why make new laws when the existing ones are pretty much ignored?? If these horrible, cruel acts had been committed on humans and not animals, dont you think the outcome would have been different? In my mind and in my heart, I feel that animals suffer ill-treatment no differently than their human counterparts...if this cruel man treats animals in this manner, God only knows what horrible crimes he perpetrates against friends, neighbors, family. I believe the punishment should match the crime, and this horrible man needs to rot in prison for his cruelty. The actions or the lack of such by police and other authorities need to be brought to light as well. How is it that this crime was not handled properly by them? Perhaps we need to look into replacing them with others that would do the job they were hired to do. It seems as if there are mishandled circumstances and situations galore in this sad mess. Or were they simply ignored? The public has the right to know, especially those poor families who lost their beloved pets because of it.

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