Tragedy at Ohio Kennel Prompts Passage of “Nitro’s Law”

In the summer of 2008, due to a family medical emergency, Tom Siesto and Liz Raab left their beloved Rottweiler, Nitro, at the Youngstown, Ohio, kennel of well-regarded trainer, Steve Croley, who was offering a “dog summer camp.” Croley was paid $2,000 and provided three months of food and vitamins for Nitro.

In October, Nitro’s family sought to retrieve their dog, but Croley suggested they let Nitro stay with him a bit longer. Two weeks later humane agents found seven dead and 12 starving dogs at the kennel. Nitro was among the dead.

Croley was charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Legal problems with the raid induced the prosecutor to drop 15 additional charges. A plea bargain resulted in Croley being sentenced to just four months in the county jail. Nitro’s family and humanitarians in Ohio were outraged at the light sentence and determined to strengthen the state’s weak anti-cruelty law. On June 30, 2013, thanks to a determined group of legislators and citizens, “Nitro’s Law” was signed into law, establishing a fifth-degree felony charge for kennel owners, operators or employees who abuse animals.

Examples of other state laws that were strengthened around the country this year: Pennsylvania now requires persons charged with animal abuse to pay up to $15 a day per animal plus medical costs until the case is resolved. This measure was needed to provide financial relief to the shelters and rescues that take in the animal victims. Colorado has a new “Dog Protection Act,” which mandates training for local police and sheriffs in how to handle situations involving dogs. It is hoped that this will curtail the all-too-common use of deadly force against dogs. In Texas, a law to “protect the pet of a person named in or protected by certain protective orders” was strengthened to benefit domestic violence victims and their animals.  

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