Distraught Actor Commits Suicide After Putting Dog to Sleep

A struggling soap opera actor took his own life last week after he euthanized his dog, claiming that harassment by his condo association had forced him to betray his best friend.

Nick Santino was found dead just a day after he put down his beloved pit bull, Rocco, on his 47th birthday. Santino, who appeared on All My Children and Guiding Light, blamed the board at One Lincoln Plaza (his apartment building) for the decision to put down the dog, saying that he and other dog owners were subject to constant harassment.

“Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend,” a despondent Santino wrote in his suicide letter, according to close friend Stuart Sarnoff. “Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.”

One Lincoln Plaza put strict dog regulations in place in 2010, including a ban on pit bulls. The regulations were grandfathered, but Santino said he and other dog owners were subject to relentless pressure to get rid of their dogs.

“People were complaining about his dog,” said neighbor Kevan Cleary. “It was open season on him.”

Rocco was prohibited from riding in the main elevators and bogus claims of excessive barking were filed against him.

“The dog was not a barker, but somebody complained that the dog would bark,” Cleary said. “He felt like he was in this battle because he was the only guy in the building with a pit-bull mix,” he added.

Another neighbor, Lia Pettigrew, agreed. “Everybody knows that he had been harassed by the building management.”

Santino made a last phone call to his former girlfriend at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. He was found dead in his bedroom Thursday from an apparent overdose of pills.

Apparently the pressure he was subjected to was just enough to force the actor to make a decision that he could not ultimately live with. A heart breaking note on Facebook from Santino indicated his frame of mind in the last few hours of his life. Despite his torment, his admiration for Rocco was clear. “I did not rescue Rocco, Rocco rescued me.”


  1. Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 10:09 am

    It’s unfortunate that he did not think of the option of re-homing the dog – then maybe they’d both still be alive.

    • Faith says on  01/30/2012 at 12:40 pm

      Anyone who would make a comment like this has never had a dog, or any pet for that matter. Animal haters need to stay out of this conversation.

      My heart goes out to Nick and Rocco. At least they are together now. Blessings to them on their journey.

      • Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 3:01 pm

        The person makes a very valid point. A true animal lover would have had the pet’s best interest at heart, not their own.

    • k9kat says on  01/30/2012 at 3:33 pm

      I agree with Anonymous, that is the first thing I thought of was why didn’t he just find it a good home or found them both a different place to live, I know I would live on the street before I put my dog down because I am told I can’t have it where I am living.

      • Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 6:46 pm

        Thank you k9kat. Your post sums up what I have been trying to put in words. I am right there with you. If he truly loved the animal he would have done anything for it, not put it down. It’s very sad what happened and I guess he realized what he did was wrong, hence taking his life.

      • Teresa RSA says on  01/31/2012 at 9:57 am

        We don’t know his living circumstances. Perhaps he had bought his condo and it was not easy to sell it, perhaps he could not find pet-friendly accommodation nearby. How can we criticise and opine if we are not in his shoes?

  2. Susan says on  01/30/2012 at 10:34 am

    RIP, Rocco and Nick. The ignorance and intolerance of others cut short your precious lives. I pray that the not-so-human race learns compassion. <3

  3. Shannon D says on  01/30/2012 at 10:39 am

    What’s with all of the comments about how he should have found somewhere else to move, or rehomed the dog? And to the person who said it is not a dog issue, it’s a mental health issue – REALLY? Would losing the one living thing that is ALWAYS there for you really not push you over the edge if you were already in a bad spot (I’d imagine if he could afford to move he would have… not everyone has that luxury, especially with the economy like it is). Absolutely disgusting that he was harassed for something that should not have been an issue, since he was not actually breaking any of the rules, apparently.

    • SSB Pack says on  01/30/2012 at 1:43 pm

      I appreciate your comment Shannon. I couldn’t agree more. I think the suggestion that this man is “selfish” and that his actions are attributed to the “nature of mental health issues” is missing the point and yes the condo management is at fault!

      Although I would never and I mean never put down a healthy dog, the age or health of his dog are not clear in the article. But, what is clear is that this man was subjected to daily harassment and that alone is enough for me to blame the condo management. To change condo bylaws after a renter is already a resident in the building and then begin harassing him is not only wrong it is shocking to me that a business would resort to such unprofessional and abusive tactics. Other residents even stated in the article that he was not only targeted daily but his dog was falsely accused of barking. So are we to ignore the actions of the condo management and focus the blame on a man that clearly loved his dog but was forced to do something so egregious as to euthanize him and then out of tremendous guilt commit suicide?

      Don’t pass judgment until you have walked a mile in another man’s shoes. We have no way of knowing the persecution this man had to endure. Everyone has a breaking point and he clearly met his. That is not proof of mental illness; insurmountable hopelessness, grief and despair perhaps, but not necessarily a predisposition of mental instability. No one is saying or condoning the choices he made but we could at least show some compassion toward him, given the sad situation he was forced into.

      Renters do have rights and even if policies change this does not give the condo management carte blanche to harass this man.

      If we had any sense we would all be outraged by his treatment! Given the current economic climate we are all probably just one or two paychecks away from being homeless and easily made vulnerable to intimidation tactics inflicted by cowards hiding behind so-called bylaws!

      • Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 2:59 pm

        Suicide is one of the most selfish acts that anyone can perform. Even though it is most often done out of desperation and the person involved has suffered terribly with depression or some other mental illness the act itself cannot be blamed on anyone but the person doing it. Of course it sucks that this condo (luxury condo I need to add) did him wrong by nagging him about his dog. But he chose the easy way out. Period. He should have taken his dog and moved. Anywhere. People need to be held accountable for their actions and this case should be no different. I am an animal lover and a survivor of suicide and the choice he made when he had his dog put to sleep was totally inexcuseable. So don’t blame the condo management. Just like fat people, don’t blame McDonald’s. It isn’t McDonald’s that crams the food down the person’s throat is it? No, it’s the person.

        • Alexis says on  01/31/2012 at 12:45 pm

          REALLY??? “EASY WAY OUT”??? OMG. I cannot believe the attitudes I see here. “NAGGING”??? Likely YOU, “anonymous” are probably a very talented bully and are sticking up for other bullies. If you are as you claim a “survivor of suicide” well your snotty and arrogant opinions are certainly not what I have seen as a volunteer in the field of health issues including mental health. Surviving a near death experience ideally gives you a healthy dose of compassion – I guess you were off the end of that train when compassion was being passed out. And your truly evil victim-blaming for “fat people”? You might try educating yourself on the FACTS which are that many people are FAT because they have no money for anything ELSE but McDonalds and FOR THAT there is blame to be squarely placed on the true FAT CATS who caused the Second Great Depression and who are STILL CAUSING IT and all the while collecting their obscenely huge BONUSES for doing it!

  4. Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 11:03 am

    If you truly love something you are willing to do whatever is within your power to proctect it. Having a healthy dog put down is not protecting it, no matter what the situation is. Obviously the guy was severely depressed in order to do something as selfish as putting his dog down and then killing himself but it’s not the condo’s fault. I’m sure he felt like he was powerless but that is the nature of mental illness. It is tragic that this doggie was caught up in such a nightmare.

  5. Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 11:37 am

    sad for Nick, and sad for Rocco…This sounds similar to a person who commits suicide after relentless bullying & torment…The Apt. Board played a huge role in this, all because of a certain breed :(

  6. Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 1:16 pm

    Hearing this really made me very sad. Sadder even that some management company had force him to put his dog down, making him feel even more depressed and taking his own life.

    Nick was a great guy and had been thru a lot in his life. He had always felt he was alone and had no one. He grew up in an orphanage in NYC and left the system at a young age to care for himself by age 16 after being shuffled around into several different homes before he was even a teenager. After, he went out on his own he started several businesses supporting himself as he entered college to complete degrees in Engineering and in Finance. He volunteered during 9/11 as an ConEd Engineer to go into the fallen Twin Towers buildings to search for victims, a task that probably fueled his depression further.

    Rocco was his savior, so to speak. He was Nick’s companion and best friend and made Nick feel wanted and needed, and for some management company to push fake complaints against his dog and driving Nick to do something that he knew he shouldn’t have and finally pushing him to the point of suicide is unforgivable. Shame on them! Everyone should be ale to have someone, even if that someone that gives them a will to live is a dog or cat. To take that from them is sinful.

    I hope Karma catches up with them soon. They really deserve it.

  7. maria starr says on  01/30/2012 at 2:08 pm

    rest in peace roccoxnick you poor loves i knws ows u felt im a dogxanimal lover too ur dog is ur lifexrock i wud of done anythg to save my dogs too god bless u both its so sad u ave to take ur own lifes of other selfish people round you its reall so sad xterrible sleep tight now u angels at least u are togerther now god bless xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  8. Nancy says on  01/30/2012 at 2:09 pm

    As the previous writer states Nick had always felt so alone his entire life — he did not want Rocco to be left alone anywhere either! He knew very well all about being alone and being lonely and he was not about to give up Rocco that he Loved so very much ! Yes ,he was depressed , he had other problems that he was already struggling with and probably could not deal with much more ! Nick then has the Landlord further complicating his Life ……….he had just had enough and could deal with any more problems! I feel so much Empathy and Compassion for Nick he could not take anymore of what “Life was dealing him”. This Economy is pushing ALOT of people into situations where they do not want to be ! Imagine how low Nick must have felt to be in his Final Position he must have felt he had no other way out for he or his Best Friend Rocco ! We need not to think we have the Answers or to pass critical judgement ……this serves absolutely no purpose in Nick or Rocco’s Lives ! God Bless Nick and Rocco !

  9. Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 2:49 pm

    Very common. Lonely folks think og a pet as their family. I did until my brautiful Sr.Sean Coonery died late 2011.. my heart was and still is broken.

  10. Ilene says on  01/30/2012 at 2:55 pm

    My family has 2 cats and just aquired a beautiful Blue Nose Brindle Pit. I would be seriously depressed if anything happened to any of my babies, 2 or 4 legged. I understand why maybe he couldn’t just move. Our (USA) money situation is crap. Why couldn’t he give Rocco to someone he knew, that he knew would take care of him. I mean… I know I would be devestated if I had to get rid of any of my family members, but at least they would still be alive. Rip to both Nick n Rocco. My heart goes out to everybody that cares about them.

  11. Paula says on  01/30/2012 at 5:08 pm

    He probably tried to find him a good home, but as anyone who has ever had a pit bull and tried to find it a home, it is so very hard because of the “stigma” that is attached to these beautiful dogs. They are branded as being bad dogs and that is not the case. I have one and thought I was going to have to move. I tried for months to try to find it a good home but to no avail. The Humane Society was turning animals away, the animal shelter would only keep it a short time and then euthanize. I ask everyone and posted flyers and called. I had no luck for months. Please don’t think it would have been so easy for him to give Rocco a home. I hope this building manager gets what he deserves!! SHAME ON YOU AND THE PEOPLE WHO HARASSED NICK! May they both rest in peace!!!

    • Anonymous says on  01/30/2012 at 6:50 pm

      But even a tiny, tiny chance of adoption at a shelter is better than the certainty of being put down. He didn’t give the dog a chance. And the condos he lived in were not cheap. Why didn’t he move? Don’t blame anyone but the guy for what happened.

  12. I am a dog lover and classified as a major depressive. If you don’t suffer from the condition you can’t truly understand. The decision he made about the dog may have seemed as if it was his only choice after being beaten down by the people with the power over his living arrangements. So when he did the unthinkable and helped to end his dogs life he was overcome by the guilt and grief, unable to change the outcome he couldnt live with the choice. I understand and am so deeply saddened that there was no one available for him to turn to in his greatest hour of need. Rest well the pain is over.

  13. My hope is that Rocco and Nick have found peace together. I understand Nick in his stating that Rocco rescued him. Our dogs find us, not the other way round. Can anyone imagine the pain Nick endured having to have his loved companion euthanised? I don’t think I could go on either.

  14. Anonymous says on  01/31/2012 at 9:26 am

    If you people did some research you’d know he DID try to find the dog a home. Stop hating and get the facts straight before you start dictating what people should and shouldn’t do. He did everything he felt he could. Those selfish neighbors should be ashamed. Losers.

  15. Maria Eugenia says on  02/01/2012 at 12:41 am

    Shame, shame to you heartless neighbors and Board Members!!!! Just remember, what goes around comes around, and sooner or later, you will pay for it. Nick and Rocco are now in Heaven while you will live in Hell….that is if you have any conscience.

  16. Anonymous says on  12/17/2014 at 4:56 pm

    I got my dog put down in retrospect too soon. she got hit by a car but I am now convinced she would have survives=d. I was feelinf =g very depressed before this happened as have no excuse whatever for what I have done.
    I understand completely where this man is coming from. I am currently giving away my belongings and have made a will leaving my goods to an animal charity, cannot wait to get away from this world and my mind.

    • Anonymous says on  04/24/2015 at 12:36 am

      Please do not end your life…I know that the expense of caring for an injured baby can make you make decisions you regret but know deep down inside that your furbaby isn’t suffering anymore!!! hate the world we live in now but you need to be strong and carry on, rescue another one who needs and truly depends on you to survive and your lost angel will look down on you with so much love and forgiveness and love you even more when the time comes for you two to be together. You have to fight to survive, be strong because everything changes in an instant and God is other done with what he has in store for you….fight to stay alive my dear soul!!!!!!

  17. Kathy says on  04/24/2015 at 8:04 am

    This was a tragedy. But we are all sitting in judgement of a situation we can’t possibly understand. Maybe if there were more compassion and less judgement in the world people would find a better way to solve their problems. But even in death this man is being judged and criticized. When will we ever learn to be humane.

  18. Anonymous says on  04/24/2015 at 6:39 pm

    why did not he just move

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