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State turns its focus to dogs’ eyes in animal abuse trial

  • Prosecutor Tim Morgan listens to testimony while a photo showing a Great Dane with cherry eye is projected on a courtroom wall Wednesday at Ossipee’s District Court. RAY DUCKLER / Monitor staff

  • Senior Field Rescue Responder for The Humane Society of the United States Rowdy Shaw removes a dog from the house during a rescue of approximately 70 Great Danes from a suspected puppy mill on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Wolfeboro, N.H. The Wolfeboro Police Dept. called in The HSUS to assist with rescue and long-term care of the dogs. (Meredith Lee/The HSUS) Meredith Lee



Monitor staff
Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Day Three in Ossipee’s District Court, the eyes had it.

These eyes, pictured up close during a slide presentation in the trial of Christina Fay, showed big dogs with big problems: Great Danes with secretions and redness and eyelids that seemed to have lost their way.

These eyes were hard to look at. One photo showed a blind dog named Charlie Girl. The poor pooch had the blank stare of a doll and looked as though it had lost its identity.

The photos were shown by Dr. Alison Clode of Portsmouth, who was called by prosecution attorneys Simon Brown and Tim Morgan. They hoped to tilt Judge Charles Greenhalgh in their favor concerning the alleged abuse and neglect of 75 Great Danes.

They’re up against defense lawyers Kent Barker and Jim Cowles, both of whom had to defend Fay while the eye-opening photos tugged at heartstrings.

“The worst cherry eyes I’ve ever seen,” Clode said, describing Charlie Girl, one of 44 dogs she had examined.

All 75 dogs were taken after police and officials from the Humane Society of the United States raided Fay’s Wolfeboro home June 16.

That led to 12 counts of animal cruelty after officials said they found feces and urine all over the house, not to mention an overwhelming smell of ammonia, thirsty and skinny dogs, and many infectious diseases.

Barker and Cowles have spent lots of time this week explaining that the HSUS had no business swooping into the state to help police, explaining it had come, in part, to promote its cause for fundraising purposes.

The attorneys have also maintained that medical records were never reviewed by doctors who later diagnosed the dogs with health problems, saying they had performed unnecessary surgeries, administered unneeded vaccinations and showed recklessness through an improper diet, all while the dogs have been kept at an undisclosed shelter.

But as the case continues, as talk of dog waste and disease keeps surfacing, and as professionals keep coming forward to tell what they know and have seen, ideas about a conflict of interest by the HSUS and poor treatment after the dogs were taken from Fay seem to get pushed farther into the background.

Dr. Monique Kramer was first on the stand Thursday. She’s the Humane Society’s lead veterinarian on this case.

At one point, Cowles asked Kramer if she remembered “thick, black rubber mats” on Fay’s basement floor, where some of the dogs were found.

“It was so caked in feces, I didn’t notice,” Kramer responded.

Cowles also called into question Kramer’s system of rating the dogs’ weight, a one-to-nine scale with lower numbers representing underweight dogs and five meaning ideal weight.

Cowles showed Kramer photos and said, “You’re not seeing any ribs. That doesn’t look bad, either, right?”

To which Kramer responded, “I don’t make assessments based on photocopies ... I never have and I never will. I usually put my hands on a dog.”

Cowles kept going. He and Barker had lugged boxes of files into the courtroom, carrying them in and wheeling them in on a dolly. They had tons of ammunition.

They grilled Kramer on injuries the dogs might have suffered during the transfer from Fay’s home to the Humane Society shelter. They wondered how abuse fits in here, when Fay had brought her dogs for medical care “289 times.”

But Kramer’s testimony still proved powerful. She said she’d witnessed horrible things, like a Great Dane vomiting plastic and defecating a snake toy.

Dr. Susan Tullar of Vermont, another veterinarian called by the HSUS to assist during the early stages of the investigation, said she saw a dog vomit what looked like “the entire inside liner of a comforter.”

Upon cross examination, Barker reminded Tullar that earlier she had categorized the dogs as “Bright, alert, responsive.”

That was true. But when Barker added that Tullar had also said that the dogs were “really in pretty good shape,” she made sure Barker knew that she “didn’t say that.”

And she hadn’t.

But a picture, we know, is worth 1,000 words, and the pictures shown by Clode, the ones with those eyes of those dogs, the ones that told you something, somewhere, had gone wrong, were chilling and sad at the same time.

Clode, a veterinarian ophthalmologist, described cherry eye, conjunctivitis and diamond eye, the three diseases she diagnosed during four visits to the shelter to see the dogs.

She spoke about eyelids drooping, the laxity of connective tissue, the surgical replacement of glands, green and yellow discharge. She drew pictures on a dry erase board with a marker, trying to illustrate the conditions of the dogs she’d seen.

The drawings weren’t very realistic, more a series of curvy lines than the formation of an eye.

But Clode’s response to Barker’s suggestion that surgery performed on six of the dogs – including Wanda and Charlie Girl and Wayne – had not been necessary, that maybe the procedures were done more for cosmetic purposes than to cure serious visual problems, were crystal clear.

“No.”

She continued: “The longer (the gland) is out of position, the more susceptible it is to inflammation and irritation ... decreased function, the loss of function, the loss of tear production, and that’s going to set them up for chronic long-term problems.”

And, according to Clode, the before and after results, the personalities of the dogs pre- and post-surgery, were astounding.

Especially when it came to Charlie Girl.

The blind dog.

“The surgery to replace her glands had a profound impact on her demeanor,” Clode said. “She can play with toys now, because she can see them.”