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Former dog breeder loses appeal before N.H. Supreme Court

  • Christina Fay of Wolfeboro appears in District Court at the Carroll County Superior Courthouse in Ossipee on Sept. 6, 2017. Fay was charged in June with abusing 84 Great Danes. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • The Humane Society of the United States works with the Wolfeboro Police Dept. to rescue approximately 70 Great Danes from a suspected puppy mill on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Wolfeboro, N.H. (Meredith Lee/The HSUS) Meredith Lee

  • The Humane Society of the United States works with the Wolfeboro Police Department to rescue approximately 70 Great Danes from a suspected puppy mill on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Wolfeboro. Meredith Lee / HSUS

  • The Humane Society of the United States works with the Wolfeboro Police Dept. to rescue approximately 70 Great Danes from a suspected puppy mill on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Wolfeboro, N.H. (Meredith Lee/The HSUS) Meredith Lee

  • The Humane Society of the United States works with the Wolfeboro Police Dept. to rescue approximately 70 Great Danes from a suspected puppy mill on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Wolfeboro, N.H. (Meredith Lee/The HSUS) Meredith Lee

  • A dog waits to be loaded onto a transport vehicle as The Humane Society of the United States rescues 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
Published: 12/2/2020 4:22:17 PM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court denied the appeal of former dog breeder Christa Fay, who was convicted in 2017 of 17 counts of animal cruelty and fined more than $1 million for keeping dozens of Great Danes in squalid conditions inside her Wolfeboro mansion.

The Supreme Court released its ruling Wednesday saying the police raid on her home 3½ years ago, with animal rights groups and cameras in tow, did not violate her constitutional rights.

Fay, who had already lost her initial case as well as an appeal, maintained from the start that the Humane Society had violated her right to privacy and was illegally incorporated into the investigation and raid.

She said the organization was more concerned with fundraising than finding the truth, adding that the conditions officials said they found and photographed inside her home did not accurately reflect her treatment of the dogs.

Further, Fay maintained that her Fourth Amendment right, guaranteeing her protection against unreasonable search and seizure, had been violated as well, and thus any evidence found in her million-dollar mansion the day the warrant was served should have been admissible in court.

But in a unanimous decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court was clear that the Humane Society’s role in the arrest was justified and in fact necessary, and Fay’s civil rights had not been violated. The ruling seemingly ends a high-profile case that drew media attention from across the country.

“The defendant has failed to demonstrate that her right to privacy was violated,” the Supreme Court ruled in its 10-page decision. “Because we have concluded that a constitutional violation did not occur, we need not address the defendant’s arguments regarding whether suppression of the evidence obtained from the search would be an appropriate remedy for such a violation.”

In its ruling, the Supreme Court mentioned that, in this case, outside resources were needed because of the huge scope of the arrest. Fay’s home was 14,000-square feet, with eight bedrooms and dogs everywhere. Police reported that many suffered from contagious infections and were not given enough water.

“The police department did not have the resources to transport, or provide shelter for, the roughly seventy-eight dogs they expected to recover from the residence,” the ruling said. “Even if the dogs could be spread out among all of the animal shelters in the state, there was a risk that the dogs would spread disease to other animals in the shelters.

“Conversely, HSUS had the resources to handle large-scale animal seizures, including access to large trailers with air conditioning to transport the dogs, and could provide them with adequate housing.”

Fay was found guilty on 17 counts of animal cruelty and negligence in the fall of 2017 and fined $1.4 million after Wolfeboro police were tipped off by two members of Fay’s staff that these huge dogs, 75 in all, were being kept in squalid conditions.

Mike Strauch, the K-9 officer for the Wolfeboro Police Department, was dispatched to the home and found enough evidence - the strong odor of feces and urine emanating from an open door – to apply for and receive a warrant.

The warrant, issued on June 16, 2017, was served by police and the Humane Society of the United States, who were joined by the town’s fire department, members of its ambulance team, employees from other town agencies and staff from the Pope Memorial SPCA.

From the start, Fay and her defense teams cast a critical eye toward the Humane Society, which immediately used photos and videos from Fay’s home in its fundraising campaigns. Fay’s Concord lawyer, Ted Lothstein, questioned the role of the outside agency before the Supreme Court at a hearing last February, and reemphasized her defense.

“The state makes a surprising argument that what happened here is okay,” Lothstein said this past June. “That it is okay for the police to bring a private advocacy organization into a private home under the auspices of a search warrant that did not expressly authorize that.”

Attorney Marshall Pinkus echoed those thoughts last spring, shortly after filing a still-pending civil lawsuit against the Humane Society seeking $25 million for the unfair treatment he says Fay has received.

“The Humane Society of the United States went into her home and they had no right to be there,” Pinkus said. “They have no police powers and they went in there without her consent. That’s happened many, many times. The HSUS has a certain agenda.”

The Supreme Court criticized Strauch and the Wolfeboro Police Department for not informing the judge who issued the warrant that the HSUS would be assisting in the arrest. The court said that information would have been helpful in avoiding confusion, but that wasn’t enough to justify a favorable outcome for Fay.

“We cannot conclude,” the court said, “from the fact that Strauch did not obtain prior judicial authorization for HSUS’s participation in executing the warrant, that the manner of the warrant’s execution was unconstitutional.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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