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Kennel owner going to jail for starving dogs

Published: Fri, January 23, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.
  Croley Sentenced

By Patricia Meade

The defendant had no statement for the judge.

YOUNGSTOWN — The healthy barks of a police dog served as a backdrop for the sentencing of a kennel operator who allowed dogs to starve to death at High Caliber K-9.

Steve Croley, 38, after appearing 40 minutes late to municipal court Thursday, was sentenced to four months in jail on four counts of animal cruelty. Below Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr.’s third-floor courtroom, the barks of Detective Sgt. Frank Rutherford’s dog rose from the police parking lot as Croley and his lawyer stood in front of the judge. Rutherford was in municipal court on another matter, and the dog waited for him in their cruiser.

In addition to jail, Judge Douglas, who said he found it hard “to understand what happened, why it happened,” ordered that Croley pay restitution of $1,796 and serve three years’ probation, during which time he is not allowed to own or harbor any animal. He was also fined $1,000 and has six months to pay the fine and restitution.

Croley received credit for the 13 days he spent in jail until he posted bail. He will report to the Mahoning County jail at 6 p.m. Friday.

On Oct. 22, seven dead and 12 starving dogs were found at High Caliber K-9, 1516 Coitsville-Hubbard Road. Croley was arrested that day.

He reached a plea agreement in December and pleaded no contest to the animal-cruelty charges. Two housing violations related to the condition of the High Caliber K-9 property were dismissed.

Croley’s lawyer, Heidi Hanni, told the judge that her client is very sorry and remorseful, noting he lost his business. She said he made poor decisions, adding he had been in the process of a divorce.

For the “terrible atrocities with these animals” she said he is “very, very sorry.”

Croley made no statement to the judge.

In the gallery, a New York couple whose dog, Nitro, starved to death at the kennel, watched the proceeding, as did representatives of Animal Charity, a humane agency on South Avenue. Nitro’s owners left quickly after the sentencing.

Of the restitution Croley must pay, $1,646 is owed to Animal Charity, which rescued emaciated dogs from the property. The other $150 in restitution is payable to the owners of one dog who died.

When taken into custody three months ago, Croley told a representative of Animal Charity that he could not afford to feed the animals. After the arrest, dog owners came forward to say they paid him in advance.

“We feel good about the decision,” Nikole Owen, Animal Charity chief executive officer, said after court. “Initially we thought he would not receive jail time.”

She said her agency will monitor Croley, once he’s out of jail, to make sure he doesn’t own an animal.

Still pending for Croley is a rent dispute for the kennel property at 1516 Coitsville-Hubbard Road. Matt Akendead of Virginia, who owns the property, filed a complaint in municipal court asking for past due rent of $3,500. He said in court Tuesday that Croley and his wife failed to pay rent from May through November.

Croley contends that he and Akenhead were business partners and no rent is owed. Akenhead denied being partners with Croley.

Magistrate Tony Sertick said eviction was a moot point because Croley no longer resides at the address. The magistrate then gave Croley time to hire a lawyer and will schedule another hearing to resolve the rent dispute.



1thespiritdog(2 comments)posted 7 years ago

Is this justice ? Who knows although I am a little troubled over the restitution amounts or should I say, lack of restitution amounts awarded.

I see the animal charity will receive $1,646. and apparently one dog owner will receive $150. Obviously since most of the animal abuse counts were dropped, those animal owners will receive nothing.

But what about the monies payed by the owners, for the dog training service that was suppose to be provided ? The prosecuting attorney and the court should of made at least a token gesture with some monetary damages, even if the judgment would be noncollectable.
Alan Papszycki

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2animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years ago

Nikole Owen I am so glad you feel good about the decision. You and animal charities are the reason that those other charges were dropped. You had ample opportunities to make this right. Personally all I think you care about is $$$.

The dog murderer is "very very sorry" I am sure he is sorry for getting caught. He is a soulless thing who watched and listened to those animals suffer and die. He also had ample opportunities to make this right before they had to die. Instead he continued to collect monies from people to continue his drug and sex addictions.

This jail time is a joke, Judge Douglas you should have never accepted this plea deal. Make an example out of him. I am sure this will not be the last of Steve Croley - next he will be Youngstown's serial killer.

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3animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years ago

I forgot to add...

40 minutes late? and they actually waited for him? Talk about giving this man every opportunity.

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4JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years ago

The unhealthy ramblings of a crazy person served as a backdrop for an article detailing the sentencing of a kennel operator who allowed dogs to starve to death at High Caliber K-9.

What opportunities did the charity have to "make this right?" Turn back time and ensure that proper procedure was followed in entering the property? Hire a hit man to take out the defendant?

'Splain yourself, sucka.

+1 point for attempting to libel both the defendant and Animal Charity, though. Stay classy.

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5DragonFly664(198 comments)posted 7 years ago

I guess he never thought to ask for help from Animal Charity or any animal rescue facility?? OR even call the owners, that would be way to easy. He should never be allowed to any any animal, thank god he did not have children!! I guess going through a divorce makes you forget everything else going on around you.

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6luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years ago

This man continues to demonstrate his lack of respect for the law, Judge Douglas and the courts by being 40 minutes late for court. I never knew Judges waited for criminals. I must confess this case along with the outcome of many others has left me feeling very discouraged and extremely disappointed with the authorities, our laws and the system. There was no excuse for these dogs to suffer, starve and for several to die. No excuse for the Humane Agents to not be properly trained and obtain a proper search warrant. No excuse to accept this plea deal. The system failed the dogs, the people that loved them, and all of us.

K9 thank you for barking and for being the voices of those that were killed by Steve Croley at High Caliber K9.

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7scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years ago

Voice - do you realize if ANYTHING happens to this guy you could be brought up on conspiricy charges? You are NOT anonymous and if needed the Vindy would give you up in a heartbeat.
Fair or not, I doubt the judicial system would be as lenient on conspiricy.
They don't allow dogs in prison, the only animals are the kind that (trust me) you don't want to deal with.

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8DragonFly664(198 comments)posted 7 years ago

What made me mad was the Humane Agents did not wait for the warrents?? I know seeing a dog suffer is hard, but if they waited a bit more maybe he would of recieved a longer sentence or a stiffer fine. Maybe Youngstown should start looking at the court system to start fixing the problems in Youngstown. Something has to be done, I hate even having to go through Youngstown. I do avoid it.

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9tnstace05(1 comment)posted 7 years ago

I know this entire case sucks with lack of jail time and so called restitution.Most dog owners like myself consider there dogs or any pets to be like family.I will be dammed if i would take $150 for the murder of one of my dogs.I would hope the person who suffered the loss of there dog would persue this farther in court.

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10scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years ago

Glad to see they removed Voice's comment. Voice undoubtedly typed in the heat of the moment and probably didn't actually mean what was typed.

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11dagoat64(38 comments)posted 7 years ago

Oh, our society. What has happened? We elect a president that is o.k. with ripping an unborn child out of a uterus, but he opposes guns because they kill. Should we put someone in jail and on death row because he messed up with fido? Sure, dogs and animals should not endure the suffering these animals did. I agree, but to put him in jail? I think there are bigger fish to fry. Sorry.

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12ads(109 comments)posted 7 years ago

First off, what people chose to do with their bodies is their business. Second, i am very disapointed in the sentence but at the very least he got some jail time. It could have turned out much worse, he could have got off scott free. My heart breaks for what those animals endured and I can only hope he gets his in the end.

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13DragonFly664(198 comments)posted 7 years ago

I take it dagoat64, you are not a animal lover?? People choose to have an abortion, animals do not choose there master's. Since they have no say in how there treated, we have to look out for them and take care of them. I didnt vote for "our" pres. So if the US falls apart, the only ones to blame are the ones that voted for him.

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14dagoat64(38 comments)posted 7 years ago

I am sorry, Arlia and dragonfly. My attempts to illistrate that there are alot of other issues at hand, besides a weasel like Crowly, may have offended you.While I am not trying to fire up a debate on abortion or animal rights. I actually love animals, and also, I may be a little to the right on the abortion issue. (I don't believe in 3rd trimester ab's., I feel if a woman does not want a child they should be able to figure that out and get the morning after pill or a d and c well before the 7th month of pregnancy.). The point I was attempting to make is that our jails barely have room for violent offenders or drug dealers. Why put a guy who starved animals in a warm place with 3 hots and a cot? Especially when he just lost his ability to make money taking care of animals, just got divorced, and will probably lose, or not be able to find another job in this economy. Soon he might be the one starving and out in the cold. Why pay taxes to give him what you think he does not deserve? Carma sometimes takes care of everything.

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15DragonFly664(198 comments)posted 7 years ago

I do not believe in late ab's either, and it should not be used as a form of birth control. You are right in a way, we should not have to feed and keep him warm, but he does need to be punished for what he did, he was basically their caretaker. There are so many programs out there to help people, he should of used one and none of this would have happend.

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16clayor(281 comments)posted 7 years ago

I guess we should be glad that this pig at least got some jail time and a fine. It could have been nothing with another judge. We did our best and got the best we could. Someday he will have to answer for his actions to the Ultimate Judge. Then let him try to get out of that one. I'm sure there is a "special" place in eternity for the likes of this guy and people like him.

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17shellyjones(1 comment)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

What a tragedy. Living in Washington, I just found out about this article ans if I knew then what I knew now,I would have reported him years ago. I bought a protection dog from Mr. Croley and the dog arrived by plane painfully thin. Every vertabra on his back was showing along with all of his ribs. When I questioned Mr. Croley about my dogs thin condition, I was advisded by Mr., Croley this is to keep them in top workiing condition, no extra stress on joints when attacking etc.. I did not leave my dog in that condition, but now, I wish I would have reported him to the proper authorities. Then he had a up and running successful dog buisness and look at him now. I wish he could have received a stiffer sentence and I am glad to see the community outraged over this and I hope that a stiffer law is passed for people like him.

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18nancysfancys(1 comment)posted 6 years ago

How could ANYONE watch any living thing starve to death. It is horrible torture, if you have ever been hungry yourselves. Can you imagine starving to death! Steve Crolly is a detrament to society, and someone with this personality will continue to make others suffer so he may be comfortable in his own life. Others will get by with this if he is not made an example...I can imagine how he would starve a baby or child to death....THINK!!!! You know this will or already has lead to other behaviors he hasn't gotten caught with.

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19jansel(4 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

There is absolutely no excuse for starving these dogs. I just can't accept the judges ruling. And why only charged for 4 murders, he murdered 7 dogs. Nonsense, that it was because the humane agents entered the property without a warrant. If the animals are in eminent danger they are allowed. This clearly was eminent danger.
This murderer could have sent the dogs home to their owners if he was too broke to feed them. Instead he kept the dogs there just to keep getting money from their owners. It seems that there are other criminal charges that should also be brought against him. Perhaps like fraud and extortion. And he also owes money to all the people who paid him for training. Where is this restitution? Why wasn't he charged for failing to deliver the services he was paid for?
Was this judge or the DA 'out to lunch?' His ruling is totally unsatisfactory and the sentencing inadequate. This punishment certainly does not fit the crime. Someone kills 7 dogs, starves 12 more, steals money from the owners and perpetrates fraud and all he gets is 4 months? Something is very wrong here.

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20salpal59(1 comment)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

The punishment does NOT fit the crime. It should be much more severe. He intentionally let these animals die...starving them to death??? He should be caged and starved. These poor dogs are living breathing animals and it's time people started realizing they can't harm them in anyway and get away with it. Ohio needs to wake up to animal cruelty and the punishment should fit the crime.

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