Nitro was a three year old Rottweiler. Nitro, along with his sister Bella, had been a pampered, beloved part of Liz Raab and Tom Siesto's family since they were puppies.
In 2008, Nitro went for training and boarding at Steve Croley's High Caliber K-9 training facility in Youngstown OH. Tom and Liz had no reason for concern about the care he'd receive. Croley came highly recommended, and had cared for and trained dogs from all over the country. Not only had Nitro been there before, they had spent time getting to know Croley on a social basis. The kennels were clean and well-maintained, and Croley presented himself as a personable man with a great way with dogs. They were also dealing with family medical emergencies and keeping Nitro in a stable, familar environment seemed the best option for him at that time. They talked to Croley on a regular basis and were assured Nitro was doing well.
On October 22, 2008, Steve Croley's High Caliber K-9 facilities were raided. The 19 dogs he had at that time had been systematically deprived of food, water and even access to inside shelter. Of those dogs, 8 were lying dead in their kennels. One of those dead dogs was Tom and Liz's beloved Rottie, Nitro. They had entrusted Croley with the care of their 105 pound baby, a dog who had scrambled eggs for breakfast, wore handmade costumes for holidays, and had always been included in family celebrations and vacations. This is the dog they got back.
Seven other dogs besides Nitro were dead: 3 Dobermans, 1 American Pitbull Terrier, 1 Border Collie, and 2 German Shepherd Dogs, slowly killed by a man who convinced their owners to trust him, and profited from the "care" they didn't receive. This neglect didn't happen in some faraway location. Croley's kennels were right in his backyard. That means for weeks he sat in his air conditioned home, had dinner, access to fresh water, assured the owners the dogs were fine, while 100 feet from where he stood the dogs died slow gruesome deaths based entirely on his own selfishness and greed.
The story doesn't end there though. Perhaps the most appalling part of it all is that Ohio animal cruelty laws are so lax that no matter what someone does to a companion animal: starves it, beats it to death, sets it on fire, pours Drano down its back, shoots it for sport, drags it behind a car, cuts its throat and leaves it to bleed to death, the MAXIMUM SENTENCE for first offense animal cruelty convictions in the state of Ohio is 6 months in jail and $1000 fine. We are one of only five states without ANY felony provisions for first-time offenders, no matter how heinous the crime. We rank 43rd in the country according the the H.S.U.S's 2010 "Humane State Report." Shame on US! And the reality is when the maximum sentence is so lenient, few judges choose to give the maximum sentence at all. The list of convicted animal abusers whose sentences were a veritable handslap is endless. In Ohio you will spend more time in jail for incidental property damage than you will for brutalizing a dog,
Steve C Croley was originally charged with 19 counts of animal cruelty. Due to a technicality, 15 of those counts, including Nitro's, were dropped. Croley plea bargained his case and was sentenced to a total of four months in jail, with credit given for 13 days already served. He was fined $1000, along with $1796 restitution for the care of the dogs who lived. He was given three years' probation during which time he cannot own dogs. He will be free to again care for innocent animals in January, 2012. Croley also filed bankruptcy which eliminated the possibility of justice through civil lawsuits. No charges for fraud or theft were ever brought against him.
Nitro's life might have ended here
but Tom and Liz's fight for true justice had just begun. Since Nitro's death and Croley's lenient sentencing, this New York couple has fought tirelessly for a change in OUR laws. With HB 108 (Nitro's Law) signed into law, kennel owners who abuse or neglect a dog in their care could be charged with a fifth degree felony. Is this enough to bring Ohio cruelty laws in line with 45 other states? Of course not, but it is a solid start towards righting what's wrong with the laws in Ohio. At the very least can we allow for felony sentencing for those you misuse our trust and profit from the care they are supposed to be giving our dogs or cats?! From there we can add to this law and make sure the truly depraved crimes against innocent companion animals are dealt with appropriately. And the fact is, it shouldn't be this hard! In 2010, Nitro's Law was passed in Ohio's House of Representatives but stalled in committee in the Senate. This year it has been reintroduced and is on the agenda for consideration this week in the House Criminal Justice Committee. There is still a long ways to go but with your help we can make sure it is a part of Ohio law before the end of 2011.
What can you do RIGHT NOW to help?
Right now you need to send an email to all of the members of the Criminal Justice committee insisting they support Nitro's law and move it to full House vote immediately. The bill is on the agenda for Wednesday June 22 so they have to hear from you on Tuesday. We absolutely must flood their offices with emails so they are clear on the urgency of this matter. Contact information for the committee members is at the end of this blog. I have also included a link to a letter written by Mel End BSL on facebook, that she has offered for use by anyone who is not sure what to say. I have also added my own letter to this blog. Please feel free to use either one of these or adapt them with your own words. Just a short note to say you care about this bill is a huge help! If you can only send one email send it to Rep. Lynn Slabey, but it only takes a few minutes to copy the same text to the others on the list, too. You can make a difference! With your help, we will see a change in Ohio laws!
Please join The Nitro Foundation's page on facebook for the most current updates on Nitro's Law.
For more information go to
About 20 years ago* in Lucas County a woman left for work after a fight with her abusive boyfriend. When she came home, he told her he'd fixed dinner for her, and directed her to open the oven. When she did, she found that he had turned the oven on high and shoved her new puppy in to cook to death. At that time there was a huge outcry over the fact he could not be charged with a felony for what was clearly a premeditated and brutal crime. And since then, for over 20 years, nothing has changed?! I'm no different than anyone else. I assume someone else is doing these things but guess what? No one did! That someone now has to be me. And it has to be you and everyone else! Enough is enough, Ohio! The process for making things right for the companion animals who cannot vote and cannot protect themselves should not be so impossible that even after 20 years, nothing is any different than it was when that puppy burned to death in that oven! The time is now and it's up to every one of us.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead
link to Sample email by Mel
Dear Representative XXXXXX,
I am writing to ask for your support in voting to move HB 108, Nitro's Law, to a full House vote, and hope for your continued support until it is signed into law. As a voter and animal lover, I am saddened and dismayed to know that Ohio has some of the most lenient laws against animal cruelty of any state in this country. It is time to change that and Nitro's Law is an important first step in the process. Can we please get this bill passed before we turn on the news to yet another crime against innocent dogs and have to explain to the public why Ohio is so far behind the times on this issue? Thanks for your consideration.
Your name and address
Ohio House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee:
House of Representatives
77 S. High St
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Louis W. Blessing, Jr.
Danny R. Bubp
Joseph W. Uecker
Nancy J. Garland
W. Carlton Weddington
*I cannot find information about this crime so am relating it from memory. I know for a long time I couldn't walk past my own oven without thinking about what that man had done. If anyone can offer additional details, please let me know, thanks.