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Testimony tells tale of caring dog owner in Great Dane trial

  • A Great Dane is seen locked in a crate at a Wolfeboro mansion owned by Christina Fay in June. Courtesy Humane Society of the United States



Monitor staff
Friday, October 20, 2017

Christina Fay’s defense team raised lots of questions Friday.

Same as it’s done all week in Ossipee’s District Court.

Lawyers Kent Barker and Jim Cowles have laid down a crisp plan, full of documentation and witnesses and tough cross examination, casting doubt on the 12 animal cruelty and neglect charges Fay is facing.

Look at all the money, thousands of dollars on medicine and surgeries, Fay has spent on her Great Danes. Would an animal abuser do that? And look at the nearly 300 visits her dogs have made to Fay’s veterinarian. Doesn’t that mean she cares about them?

Elsewhere, look at the diseases that were never carefully diagnosed, some of which are hereditary, after that June 16 raid on Fay’s Wolfeboro home. And look at the carelessness shown by the Humane Society of the United States once it took control of the dogs and brought them to a still-unkown location.

Animal abuser? Fay? Hardly.

The prosecution, though, has had a few simple cards up its sleeve, bottom-line elements that attorneys Simon Brown and Tim Morgan hope will convince a judge to convict Fay.

One: the number of dogs Fay kept in her home. Can someone, anyone, properly care for and supervise 75 giants, even with a small staff?

75?

Two: the feces and urine found in Fay’s home, plus the ammonia smell that, according to testimony and paperwork, sounds as though it could have derailed a speeding locomotive.

Barker questioned defense witness Dr. Samantha Moffitt, a veterinarian whom he somehow found in Virginia. Her testimony was bumped up a day because she had to return home, but on Friday she and Barker weaved a tapestry that greatly served Fay’s cause.

Moffitt said she reviewed medical records closely and surmised that Fay had done well by her dogs.

“This is an owner that I can see that is not just giving adequate care,” Moffitt told Barker. “I can tell her main interest is to treat her animals by seeing the medical records in front of me.”

Then she took a swipe at the media, saying, “I was very skeptical at first reading the media, but I wanted to see the records before taking the case.”

Media reports, to be sure, began with one-sided police interviews and the affidavit, but it was hard to put a clean spin on the filth that was said to be found in Fay’s home. The photos were gross and graphic, too, and the dogs’ eyes were a mess.

But there was Moffitt on Friday, praising Fay for the care she’d given, casting doubt on the Humane Society’s reports, wondering if the dogs had been hurt during the transfer process, questioning if that overpowering ammonia smell had really done any damage.

“I don’t see the direct connection with ammonia and conjunctivitis,” Moffitt told Barker. “It could have been many other factors.”

Moffitt also cited medical reports that differed from one day to the next, saying there were “inconsistencies.”

Together, she and Barker made the doctors and Humane Society officials appear as though their work was greatly flawed, their observations misguided.

After all, while there were reports of maggots inside the home, did anyone actually see Fay feed her dogs with these creepy-crawly things?

“Why would someone feed spoiled chicken if they were spending a lot of money on medical care?” Moffitt wondered.

In the most compelling moment of Day 4, Barker and Moffitt discussed a dog that had died while under Humane Society care. Their speculation was clear, that the dog had been fed too much food too quickly, which led to stomach problems and a painful death.

At that moment, Fay buried her face in her hands at the defense table. Cowles gently rubbed her back with his left hand, then poured her a cup of water.

Brown’s cross examination showed no sympathy for Fay’s apparent pain. In his soft-spoken manner, he turned to logic, asking Moffitt about the importance of monitoring 75 Great Danes for infections and how difficult that would be.

He asked if Moffitt knew that 47 of the Great Danes had been diagnosed with ear infections. “I’ve seen the records,” she said.

And when Brown mentioned the ammonia, how it burned noses and eyes, how it affected breathing, how it forced officials out of Fay’s home in search of fresh air and relief, Moffitt countered like a shifty boxer.

“My concern was why wasn’t there any protective gear?” she said.

Brown immediately pointed out the irrelevance of that statement, to which Moffitt said, “When you’re in a group of people, sometimes it’s a domino effect, so if one person goes, ‘Ewww, it smells really bad,’ another person could jump on the bandwagon and say that, too.”

Brown, of course, didn’t buy it. He mentioned the dirty food bowls found in the home and asked Moffitt if that could lead to disease. She said yes. He asked if she knew feces had been found on the floor. She said yes.

He mentioned there was evidence that dogs in the basement had gone without water for 24 hours and wondered if that was “negligent, unacceptable.”

She said yes.

Two other veterinarians – Sarah Proctor and Jerilee Zezula – also testified. Both were allies of the state, and both came under tough questioning from Barker.

He grilled Proctor, a clinical assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, on the feces she saw in Fay’s home. Barker said it could have been left there during the 12 hours officials moved through the house collecting evidence.

Maybe that’s why some of the dogs were covered in it. Not so, Proctor reasoned.

“I’ve never seen it this bad after 12 or 24 hours,” she noted.

The battle between Barker and Zezula, who’s on the Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals, sparked fireworks.

Through Morgan’s friendly line of questioning and Zezula’s research, we learned that she believed Fay deprived her dogs of water, that the feces and ammonia made the dogs more susceptible to conjunctivitis, that the dirty environment and lack of ventilation and high humidity was the perfect breeding ground for infection, and that a lack of supervision only made a bad situation worse.

Enter Barker.

He wanted to know what proof Zezula had that showed the dogs lacked water. He wanted to know if actual testing had taken place confirming ear infections.

“You just kind of make stuff up as you go along,” Barker told her. “You can’t point to one piece of evidence,” Barker, raising his voice, told her.

“I don’t think photographs lie,” Zezula said.

The trial continues Tuesday, when the defense will raise more questions.

And the prosecution will cite the number 75 and feces.

Stay tuned.