Dog trial goes to judge

  • Christina Fay, 59, of Wolfeboro has a pensive moment while on the stand during the final day of her animal cruelty trial in Ossipee on Tuesday. DAYMOND STEER / Conway Daily Sun

Conway Daily Sun
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Christina Fay took the stand in her own defense during the sixth and final day of her animal cruelty trial, in which the Wolfeboro woman is accused of mistreating dozens of Great Danes in her care.

Now, it is up to Judge Charles Greenhalgh to decide her guilt or innocence.

Fay, 59, of Wolfeboro faces 12 charges alleging she kept the dogs in squalid conditions and denied them adequate food, water and care.

The case began last June, when police and members of the Humane Society of the United States seized the dogs from locations in Wolfeboro and Bartlett. The Conway Area Humane Society received another nine dogs prior to the seizure.

But on the stand Tuesday, Fay focused on the days and weeks before police and Humane Society officials arrived at her Wolfeboro mansion.

Leading up to the raid, Fay said she faced a significant staff turnover at her Wolfeboro residence while she tried to recover from knee surgery. This hampered her efforts to keep the Wolfeboro home clean, she said.

Fay also said the hot June weather was a contributing factor because the animals are sensitive to temperature.

“Honestly, it was a perfect storm,” said Fay, who used the term repeatedly to describe the events leading to her arrest.

Under questioning from Barker, Fay refuted the notion that she was running a puppy mill. Fay said she has disdain for puppy mills, which are “pretty much the bottom of my dislike list,” and that it was difficult to hear her home referred to as such.

“How ironic for me, of all people, to be accused of being a puppy mill,” Fay said.

In fact, she said, in the past two years, not that many puppies were born.

“It is an unfair and incorrect term for me,” said Fay of the term “puppy mill,” adding that she had no profit motive for raising the dogs.

Fay said she spent far more on the dogs than she ever took in from the occasional sale. She also said she would give away the dogs’ sperm for free on occasion.

“The idea of a profit is laughable,” Fay said.

She also went into some of her personal history.

She said she lived New York, where she had adopted and raised six special-needs children and cared for horses. She came to New Hampshire to have some “fun” and “indulge” her passion for Great Danes.

Fay described how the dogs had a daily routine in which they would be taken out at least three times. They also got to recreate in a meadow and enjoyed trips to McDonald’s for cheeseburgers.

And she denied ever abusing or neglecting her dogs, and said her neighbors were the reason she kept the animals inside as much as she did.

She said she received a number of barking dog complaints and that made her feel unwelcome in town. Fear of a potential complaint made her limit the dogs’ time outdoors more than she’d planned when she bought the house, Fay recalled.

To aid Fay’s testimony, the defense also showed a number of photos of dogs in the house and on the property. The home appeared to be reasonably clean and the dogs looked well, drawing a stark contrast with images released by the Humane Society showing sickly dogs, urine-stained carpets and beds, and feces on the floors and walls.

One of the defense’s photos showed a Great Dane resting its head on Fay’s shoulder.

Earlier in the trial, Wolfeboro police Officer Michael Strauch testified that Fay’s clothes were covered in feces at the time of her arrest, and Fay denied that Tuesday.

She said she took pride in her dogs.

Fay said she had one of the best collections of European Great Danes in North America but described herself as a hobbyist rather than a professional breeder, though she had a registered business called De La Sang Monde Great Danes. Many of her dogs came from Europe.

“I believe my dogs are masterpieces,” she said.

In June, there were about 75 dogs in the Wolfeboro house, but a number were set to leave for new homes, she said.

Fay testified that it’s been hard for her to be vilified in the press internationally. She said the dogs are her life.

“To say I have been in despair is an understatement,” she said.

The defense rested Tuesday, and both sides had their closing arguments.

In his closing statement, defense attorney Kent Barker reiterated his concern that the police and the Humane Society of the United States ganged up on Fay and used photos of the raid as a fundraising tool for the HSUS.

“Once that machine started going down the track, regardless of what the real facts were, it was going to result in prosecution. And that’s exactly what we saw,” Barker said.

Prosecutor Simon Brown told Greenhalgh that Fay let the population of dogs increase from about 40 to 75 in the span of her two years in Wolfeboro, even after a staffing shortage developed over the spring.

“The conditions which the defendant subjected her dogs to in that house were deplorable,” said Brown, reminding the court of one veterinarian who testified that it was the worst case of animal cruelty she had ever seen.

Brown said he doesn’t dispute that Fay loved her dogs.

“But love should also mean restraint,” he said.

Greenhalgh said he would take the statements under advisement.

“I have some evidence to consider,” he said.