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Neglect case against ex-kennel owner postponed

Published: Thu, October 7, 2010 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



The jury trial of a dog owner’s civil lawsuit against a former kennel owner in a high-profile case of suspected animal neglect will be postponed until the defendant’s bankruptcy case is concluded, says a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court official.

Elizabeth Raab. of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., owner of a 3-year-old male Rottweiler named Nitro, who died in October 2008, sued Steven Croley, 38, former owner of the High Caliber K-9 Kennel on Coitsville-Hubbard Road.

Croley filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Sept. 27 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown, reporting that he now lives on Orchard Hill Drive in Austintown and listing Raab as one of 28 creditors.

Croley’s bankruptcy filing said his estimated assets are between $50,000 and $100,000; his estimated liabilities are less than $50,000; and his debts are primarily consumer debts. His full-time job at Dearing Compressor and Pump Co. in Boardman pays him $540 a week, plus overtime, he reported.

The trial in the dog case was to begin Sept. 28 before Magistrate Timothy G. Welsh of common pleas court, but Welsh granted Raab’s request for a postponement due to recent tornado damage to her house.

Raab’s suit says Nitro died because Croley failed to provide adequate food, water, lodging or care for him.

Raab dropped Nitro off at the kennel in June 2008 under a $750-a-month agreement that the kennel would feed, house and train Nitro for at least three months, and that Raab would pay for any necessary veterinary care, the suit says.

The suit alleges the kennel, however, failed to train the dog or have him examined or treated by a veterinarian.

“Nitro died under defendant’s care due to long-term neglect,” according to the suit, which seeks more than $25,000 in damages.

Croley says in a pretrial affidavit, however, that Nitro died from a virus and that Croley could not have prevented the dog’s death. Croley says in the affidavit that Raab hired him to find a home for Nitro.

In a separate criminal case, Croley was convicted in January 2009 of four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, fined $1,000 and jailed for four months.

The kennel was shut down in fall 2008, when the criminal charges were filed, after animal owners found seven dead and 12 starving dogs there, but it later reopened under new ownership.

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