WATCH: Despite Guilty Verdict, 70-Plus Great Danes will not be in Homes for Christmas
OSSIPEE — More than 70 Great Danes will spend their Christmas in a shelter after a judge ruled convicted animal abuser, Christina Fay, cannot re-home them and will only be allowed to have one animal in her possession for the rest of her life. Her attorneys responded by saying she will appeal, meaning the dogs will stay in limbo until the case is heard in Superior Court.
The sentencing hearing for Fay on Thursday culminated a scattered week-long trial for the Wolfeboro woman. Throughout the trial, Judge Charles Greenhalgh heard testimony of deplorable conditions with a layer of feces and urine on the floor and walls. Fay claimed the June raid was the "perfect storm" and not how she typically cared for the dogs.
Amend to Bail
Kent Barker and James Cowles, Fay's attorneys, filed a motion to amend the bail in response to a 15-month-old dog dying of bloat last month while in the care of the Humane Society of the United States. Fay took the stand to try to persuade Greenhalgh to allow her to rehome the Great Danes, with the exception of nine, which she wanted to be returned to her custody.
She testified that in 38 years she never lost a dog to bloat. She said she had witnessed signs of bloat in the past with five of her dogs, but picked up on the signs and took them to the vet immediately.
"Off to surgery we went and all did very well," Fay said on the stand. "Now, I've had two at the hands of this organization that not only died of bloat but died a horrific painful death and they suffered."
She said nine times out of 10 immediate surgery is necessary for bloat symptoms.
Later, Greenhalgh asked for clarification saying he's reviewed the medical records and didn't see any veterinarian notes related to the symptoms of bloat. Fay responded that twice while she's lived in New Hampshire she has brought dogs to her veterinarian, Dr. Kate Battenfelder, for symptoms but admitted neither needed surgery.
Fay said she believed at least one of the dogs who died of bloat was fed gross amount of commercial dry dog food. Fay said, in her opinion, cases of bloat diminish when the dogs are fed a raw diet, like her dogs were.
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"Its been 6.5 months since I've seen my dogs," she said emotionally. "I am overwhelmingly concerned about their welfare. Also my vet, Dr. Samantha Mattis (sic, the veterinarian who testified is Dr. Samantha Moffitt) visited twice and noticed obvious depression. The quality of life. There are two litters of puppies growing up in cages - 6½ months. At my home they would be playing in the fields every day and sleeping on couches and beds. I don't even know ... have they been socialized at all? It's so unacceptable and horrific to me," Fay testified.
Fay continued saying she believes the puppy would not have died in her care.
"Had this puppy been with me, he would have gone to surgery in time and would have been medicated," she said.
Fay requested nine dogs to be returned to her and the rest to be re-homed with people of her choosing. She agreed to daily supervision if the court desired and said she had proper housing for the dogs which she would provide to the court, but only to the court as she says she has received death threats.
State attorney, Timothy Morgan pushed back saying Fay's testimony differed from what we heard at trial.
"This idea of the dogs out roaming in the field and having a good time, it doesn't correspond to what the veterinarian and people on the site told us," he said.
Morgan continued saying that during the trial the state proved Fay showed a callous disregard for the dogs and furthermore has shown no remorse, instead blaming "a perfect storm" or a "conspiracy concocted by the Wolfeboro Police Department."
Morgan said allowing Fay to re-home the dogs is inappropriate for someone convicted of animal cruelty.
"Having the defendant decide where the animals should go is a little like having a parent of an abused child say what the treatment of that abused child should be," he said.
Morgan said he and Barker agreed on one thing, "the bottom line here is what is in the best interest of the dogs." Neither could agree on what that meant. Barker saying Fay should be allowed to re-home the dogs (minus the nine that would be returned to her) to homes she has chosen. Morgan said the state believes the best interest is for Fay to surrender the dogs to the HSUS, a group who has the experience to find appropriate homes for these dogs.
Before he issued a ruling on the motion to amend bail, Greenhalgh asked the state how long it took HSUS to figure out the dog was dying of bloat. Morgan briefly conferred with an HSUS representative who provided an email stating the dog was asymptomatic just 2 hours and 15 minutes before he was found dead and had been seen by a veterinarian four days before his death.
After listening to Fay and Barker and Morgan, Greenhalgh sided with the state, ruling against the motion to amend the bail saying, "I think that its been pretty clear Ms. Fay intends to appeal this matter," Greenhalgh said. "That issue may be best left to superior court."
Barker contested speaking on the dogs' behalf saying the Great Danes will continue to unnecessarily suffer while they could be re-homed with families.
"For six months these puppies have never seen anything but the inside of a cage, and it's got to stop," Greenhalgh repeated. "The motion is denied."
The state requested the following for sentencing of Fay:
- Restitution - The defendant be required to pay back full restitution for the cost of care for the dogs which includes $1,457.11 to the Pope Memorial SPCA, $16,335.77 to the Town of Wolfeboro and $773,887 to HSUS.
- Incarceration - The state asked for 12 months incarcerated in the House of Corrections on each complaint to be served concurrently with six month suspended for a period of five years.
- Surrender of dogs - The state is asking for all dogs to be surrendered to the custody of HSUS.
- Future dog ownership - The state requested Fay not be able to own dogs for two years and after that she can own no more than two dogs at a time and those dogs must be spayed or neutered.
- Post full bond upon appeal - The state is requesting the full amount of $2,000 per animal be paid upon appeal to Superior Court.
Barker argued according to the animal cruelty laws in the state, restitution must be reasonable and $700,000 is not reasonable.
Regarding incarceration, Greenhalgh ruled Fay would be sentenced to 12 months all suspended. She will not see jail time as long as she abided by the terms of the sentencing.
In relation to the surrender of the dogs, the Greenhalgh will allow Fay to choose one dog who is spayed or neutered and that dog can be returned to her. The remainder will be surrendered to the state and HSUS to place. However, since Fay plans on appealing as long as she pays the $2,000 bond, per animal, the dogs will have to stay at the shelter until the case is heard in Superior Court.
Greenhalgh ruled Fay must pay full restitution citing that Fay herself testified she spent $25,000-$35,000 a month on the dogs' care.
Finally he ruled she may never own more than one animal of any type for the rest of her life.The appeal process could take another six months to a year.
After the verdict, Christina Fay said, "My heart is broken and always will be." She also said the portrayal of her home at the trial was "profoundly unfair" and she will appeal. She says she has no plans on surrendering any of the dogs.
Lindsay Hamrick, state director of the HSUS, said they are incredibly pleased with the sentencing, but wish the dogs could be re-homed immediately.
"Because the defendent is planning to appeal and pay a full bond, these dogs are going to be stuck throught the appeal process, and I think unfortuantely, we can't be surprised that she continues to not make decisions that in the best interest of the dogs," Hamrick said.
Chief Dean Rondeau with the Wolfeboro Police Department says they are happy with the outcome.
"The Wolfeboro Police Department is delighted with the sentence ordered by Honorable Judge Greenhalgh, which is consistence with the Rule of Law, fairness and equability. We hope the Defendant accepts the court rulings and moves on from here."