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Stories of the year: No. 9 – Woman guilty of abusing Great Danes 

  • Christina Fay has been in Concord ever since the June 16th raid on her Wolfeboro home and she says her faith has helped her through everything. She has attended St. John the Evanglist church on South Main Street in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER



Monitor staff
Monday, December 25, 2017

The news broke in June, about a woman accused of mistreating more than 70 Great Danes in her Wolfeboro mansion.

Soon, Christina Fay’s arrest on multiple counts of animal cruelty attracted widespread media attention, as much for the odd circumstances surrounding the case – dozens of huge dogs living in filth in a 15,000-square-foot home – as for the typical rage generated whenever the mistreatment of animals is involved.

The saga stretched through the rest of the year, with a six-day trial in the fall before the judge in Ossipee District Court ruled against Fay two weeks ago on all 10 charges.

She was fined $750,000 last week, which will pay for the care the dogs received from the Humane Society of the United States.

The HSUS played a prominent role in serving the arrest warrant during a surprise raid on Fay’s 20-room house, where law enforcement officials found feces and urine coating the floors in several rooms, and dogs with contagious diseases.

And while public opinion, for the most part, lined up against Fay, wondering how a woman could mistreat the 75 dogs found in her house and the nine others who had already been sent to a shelter in Conway, a segment of people directed their anger at the HSUS.

Defense attorneys Kent Barker and Jim Cowles, in fact, used the HSUS as part of their strategy, claiming the organization had gotten involved to generate publicity for itself and used the dogs to help orchestrate what amounted to a campaign to raise money.

Letter writers to media outlets added to the conspiracy theory, claiming the HSUS had helped plan the raid and set up Fay. Oftentimes the letters included “H$U$” to represent the acronym for the organization.

“Clearly, they were using this for fundraising purposes,” Cowles claimed during confrontational questioning directed at Michael Strauch of the Wolfeboro Police Department, who filed the request for a search warrant. “They were not there just for law enforcement purposes.”

Later, Cowles asked Strauch, “Have you ever had evidence used as a fundraising tool? Strange, right?”

“This is a very strange case,” Strauch responded.

And, indeed, it was.

Barker and Cowles tried to convince the judge that the HSUS’s participation meant the search warrant was invalid, and they claimed photographic evidence showing waste in sections of the home had taken reality out of context, and existed because the dogs had been left caged for hours after police first entered the home early in the morning.

The defense further claimed that four of the Great Danes died after leaving the house because the Humane Society had improperly cared for them. In fact, Barker emailed the Monitor recently, claiming a necropsy report showed one of the dogs had died from gastric dilation, caused by an improper diet, last month, long after the dogs were taken from Fay.

Medical experts called by the defense testified that Fay had shown great love for her dogs and in fact had spent thousands of dollars to care for them.

Fay took the stand in her own defense and said a knee injury and staff turnover had helped create “a perfect storm” that led to her arrest.

But prosecutors asked the judge to use common sense, saying dog feces in a home for 75 huge dogs was a recipe for cruelty and negligence.

The judge, Charles Greenhalgh, agreed, ruling, “The evidence shows that the defendant did not provide proper care, substance or shelter. Many of the dogs had untreated illnesses. The evidence shows that these illnesses began to multiply and spread between May and June. The dogs were left without adequate water on multiple occasions. Their living areas were poorly ventilated and they were exposed to unhealthy levels of ammonia.”

Barker said he will appeal, so this story will continue into the new year.