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Amid rally for tougher cruelty law, kennel ex-owner Steve Croley acquitted

Published: Thu, January 12, 2012 @ 12:15 a.m.


Demonstrators rally in downtown Youngstown in support of House Bill 108, also called “Nitro’s Law.” The rally Wednesday came at the same time Steven Croley of Austintown was in court for a probation-violation hearing.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



Dozens of supporters for a change in state law making certain acts of animal cruelty a felony rallied in downtown Youngstown as the man at the center of their outcry was found not guilty of a probation violation.

Steven Croley, 41, former owner of High Caliber K-9 Kennel on Coitsville-Hubbard Road, where seven dogs starved to death in 2008, appeared Wednesday before Judge Robert Douglas of Youngstown Municipal Court on allegations of violating terms of his probation by having three dogs on the Austintown property where he lives with his wife.

Croley, three years ago, was found guilty of four counts of animal cruelty, all misdemeanors, placed on probation and ordered not to own or harbor any animals.

Two blocks from the courthouse, dozens of people wore T-shirts and carried signs asking passing motorists to honk in support of House Bill 108 — or “Nitro’s Law,” named after one of the dogs found dead on the kennel property. The law would make certain acts of neglect by kennel owners a felony.

About a half-dozen of those participating in the rally sat in on the probation-violation hearing. Judge Douglas warned all in attendance that outbursts or inappropriate actions would not be tolerated. One woman, not with the members of the rally, was later asked to leave the courtroom after a small outburst.

Dave Nelson, deputy dog warden for Mahoning County, during the hearing, told the court he received a call about Croley having dogs at his Austintown home and began an investigation. He said three dogs were found to be living at the property, and it was later determined the dogs were not properly licensed.

Croley was arrested on the probation violation in December.

Atty. James E. Lanzo, representing Croley, questioned Nelson on cross-examination. Nelson admitted the animals — three dogs and one cat — appeared to be in good condition when found and were not taken from the home.

Lanzo also called Sherry Lewis, Croley’s probation officer, to the stand. Lewis told the court that Croley informed a previous probation officer he was living in a residence with animals that belonged to the owner of that home and was not violated because of that admission.

Croley also contends he informed the probation department he had gotten married and was sharing a home with his wife and the pets she had prior to the marriage.

Lanzo called Croley’s wife, Renee Croley, to the stand and produced paperwork showing she had acquired the three dogs and cat before her marriage. One dog was acquired in December 2008, and the other two dogs were acquired in March 2010. The Croleys were married in October 2010.

Lanzo also produced paperwork showing that the Austintown home was purchased by Renee Croley two years before her marriage, and that she is the sole owner of the property.

Lanzo told the court that Steven Croley never owned any of the animals in the house and that he could not harbor the animals because he is not the owner of the property in question.

Judge Douglas agreed with the defense, saying Steven Croley clearly did not own the animals and could not provide harbor for the animals because he did not own the home where the animals live. He found Croley not guilty of probation violation.

Jennifer Bird, a Pittsburgh resident taking part in the rally for Nitro’s Law, said the court’s finding was unfair because, as a married couple, the Croleys would be required to split assets, and dogs are considered property. She also said there is no doubt that Steven Croley is left to care for the animals in his wife’s absence.

Bird and Brooke Farkas of Cleveland, another member of the rally, also maintain that Steven Croley is the owner of two of the dogs but has them in his wife’s care to get around the terms of his probation.

Farkas said supporters of Nitro’s Law will not be discouraged by the outcome of the Croley case and will continue to fight for tougher laws on animal cruelty. She said if the group were to give up, “nothing would ever get done.”


1mollylm(16 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

What a complete joke. I'm sure they'd already met when she "acquired" 2 dogs, while involved with a convicted animal abuser. You'd think she could hold off for less than a year to assure her new husband wouldn't get in trouble with the court. Shame on the previous probation officer too, for not caring about the intent of his probation. And shame on Judge Douglas for not allowing other relevant evidence and for allowing Croley to once again thumb his nose at the entire justice system. Other people's dogs went home in a body bag but he can still feed his.

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2AOSPCA(14 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The important thing is there was nobody to ask questions other than the defense. Had there been someone to do that, the question would have been asked, how did the wife acquire dogs that formerly belong to her husband and HIS EXWIFE? When did Hannah and Peanut come into the home? Reality is Croley and the dogs moved in in March, a month after he met his new wife although they did not get married until 7 months later. They did not tell the whole truth. 2 of those dogs were removed from Croley in the 2008 case. He boasts one is worth 25k, no way he is not going to have his dogs, dogs he owned for years before he met his new wife.

Also, if the court order says no dogs, how can the probation office in the first place be fine with him owning dogs without getting leave of the court?

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3AOSPCA(14 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

There was an obvious lack of "the whole truth" despite an oath.

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4luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The scales of Justice were tilted once again for the DOG KILLER! No one to ask questions other than the defense? Judge Douglas and this Probation Officer are once again NOT DOING THEIR JOBS! 3 years later and it's still a clusterf! The Job I pay them to do as a hard-working tax payer. Gerberry and Hagan aren't doing their jobs either! Why is it taking so long to get this no-brainer bill passed? I own dogs and I vote so do all of my friends, family, co-workers and neighbors! We are ALL following this bill very, very closely and the outcome will decide how we will vote come election day. GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND GET THIS BILL PASSED NOW!

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5Lisaangi(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Wake up OHIO!! Judge Douglas condones a convicted ANIMAL ABUSER to live with dogs and a cat! This is what you're paying for? And to the new Mrs. Croley - you better sleep with one eye open, darlin, because you've married an animal abuser. The correlation between animal abuse and human violence is demonstrable and well studied. Steve Croley is in the same league with Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, etc. Wow you sure did marry a great guy!

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6ohioanimallover(18 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


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7mollylm(16 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"Nelson admitted the animals — three dogs and one cat — appeared to be in good condition when found and were not taken from the home."

Isn't this the most important thing ?"

The dogs he starved to death were in good condition too, before he let them all die slow horrible deaths in his own backyard, by not giving them access to ANY FOOD or WATER. Ohio law didn't make him pay for that crime, and even his original sentence allowed him to have dogs again in 3 years. He couldn't be bothered to wait even that long. But hey! That's OK with Judge Douglas and his so-called probation officers.

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8lilrascal263(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Can anyone tell me about this Nitro law? I want to contribute somehow someway to helping this cause and i just didn't where to begin!! Maybe this law is a start for me? Any ideas? thank you

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9mollylm(16 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


Briefly the bill would create a felony option for kennel owners LIKE CROLEY who abuse or kill the animals in their care. At this time Ohio has NO felony options for first-time offenders, no matter how horrendous the abuse. Which is one of the reasons why he got off so easy for what he did. At this time the bill has passed House Committee and needs to go for full house vote, Let your state rep know we need that to happen NOW! And thanks for your interest..

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10ohioanimallover(18 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"Lanzo told the court that Steven Croley never owned any of the animals in the house and that he could not harbor the animals because he is not the owner of the property in question." This is a FLAT OUT LIE!

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11gabbykathi(6 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Looks like our system has let us down again!!!!! When it comes time for reelection, OHIO needs to step up to the plate!!!!!! ALL involved know that he is guilty and swept it under the rug. How can they be so stupid....2 dogs were removed from him in 2008 and he has them back in the household?????? There is plenty of pics that can prove that. He lives in the house with his wife......doesnt matter that the house isnt in his name. Thats like having a murder/child rapist in house w/kids...not his house and its his wifes kids...thats ok and they should be fine...really??? you think????? disgusting

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12craj2186(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

What was sad about the situation is that people who have simple traffic violations were given sentences that made his sentence for the original charges look like nothing. Where was the prosecutor? Why was it not brought forward that he owned two of the dogs living in his wife’s home (which by marriage makes it his home too) when he was originally charged in 2008. Are you meaning to tell me that he is not responsible for these animals when his wife is not around? Does he assume no responsibility to their care? Trust me I am sure that he cares for these animals when his wife is not around someone has to… and by taking care of said basic needs he would be responsible for these animals i.e. providing care being responsible harboring same thing. If you look up harbor in the Webster- Merrian dictonary it means : a place of security and comfort : REFUGE which it would be necessary for him to provide in his wife’s absence.

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13southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

People kill and abuse other people, so what chance do animals have?

Steve Croley is a disgrace to the human race and will have to answer for his actions when he dies.

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