'Overwhelming' smell at feces-filled NH mansion made rescue of 84 dogs take longer
WOLFEBORO — The state director for the Humane Society of the United States said the conditions of a mansion from which 84 Great Danes have been seized were much worse than they had imagined.
On Friday, the Wolfeboro Police Department along with the HSUS with help from the Pope Memorial SPCA and the Conway Humane Society rescued 84 Great Dane dogs ranging in age from puppies to adult from a $1.5 million dollar mansion at 149 Warren Sands Road.
The seizure took more than 14 hours and the homeowner, 60-year-old Christina Fay, has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor animal neglect but more charges could be filed. She will be arraigned Aug. 2.
Lindsay Hamrick said it was incredible and heartbreaking to see such an enormous home but yet completely covered in filth and animals living in their own waste.
Hamrick said the investigation started after animal cruelty complaints on May 5. During those five weeks, the HSUS worked with local law enforcement and the local shelters to come up with a plan for not just extracting the animals, but making sure they would go to a secure location to be assessed, treated for medical conditions and rehabilitated.
Hamrick said although they had a good idea of how many dogs were inside the home the rescue took much longer than expected.
"The smell was overwhelming," Hamrick said. "The level of ammonia in the home required law enforcement as well as other agencies supporting us and our staff needed to take regular breaks to get fresh air."
Hamrick said while many law enforcement personnel were wearing hazmat suits complete with booties, she could not wear the booties for fear of slipping on the feces and urine that covered the floor.
One room in the house was clean, which Hamrick said was used to take photos of the dogs to post online. She said this is typical for puppy mills. Fay operated a website which has since been taken down as well as a Facebook page with several photos of the dogs.
Fay sold the dogs for several thousand dollars apiece.
"From a consumer perspective, unless you had requested to see how the animals were raised, you would not know from her website they were housed this way," Hamrick said.
Hamrick said they always recommend those looking to purchase a dog to ask to see the conditions in which they were raised. If the seller refuses, that should be a red flag.
The solution to puppy mills like this one is two-part, Hamrick said. Consumers need to be better educated. "The puppy mill industry will go away as soon as the demand does."
Hamrick recommended adopting from a local shelter or buy from a reputable breeder.
And secondly, Hamrick said, animal cruelty laws need to be strengthened. Current New Hampshire regulations allow unlicensed dog breeders to sell up to 50 puppies or 10 litters a year before they must follow regulations, one of the most relaxed in the Northeast. In Vermont, Hamrick said breeders are only allowed to have three litters before they must comply with state law.
The question everyone has been asking, "how can they foster or adopt these dogs?"
Hamrick said the dogs are now part of a criminal investigation, so until all proceedings wrap up, they will not be able to be adopted. In the past, she has seen cases take anywhere from three to 18 months.
"I would encourage everyone who's offering to adopt and foster these guys that you're local community has hundreds of animals who could use the exactly the same service," Hamrick said. "And so while we continue to provide care for these Great Danes, please, if you’re not already connected to your local humane society or reputable rescue, reach out, see what kind of help they need because they are doing this work in New Hampshire every single day."
Because of current New Hampshire law, the financial burden of treating and caring for these dogs fall under the burden of the Wolfeboro taxpayers. However, Hamrick said HSUS is absorbing 100 percent of the cost to treat and care for these dogs. HSUS is lobbying for New Hampshire to pass legislation like 20 other states nationwide including Maine and Massachusetts to protect the defendant’s rights, but also lessen the burden on the taxpayer. In HSUS’s research, upon conviction still just 3 percent of costs are ever absorbed back to the town. Donations can be made at www.humanesociety.org/rescueteam.