If they could talk, abused Great Danes may wonder what took so long

  • A Great Dane puppy sits on a table on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire in front of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed an executive order revamping a commission that advises the state on animal welfare. The puppy was born to a dog that was surrendered to an animal shelter from a Wolfeboro mansion shortly before 84 other Great Danes were seized from the home and the owner was charged with animal cruelty in June. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer) Holly Ramer

  • John Moyer, corporate outreach manager for the Humane Society of the United States' Stop Puppy Mills campaign carries one of the approximately 70 Great Danes rescued 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 Humane Society of the United States) Meredith Lee—Humane Society of the United...

  • (Meredith Lee/The Humane Society of the United States) Meredith Lee—Humane Society of the United...

  • (Meredith Lee/The Humane Society of the United States) Meredith Lee—Humane Society of the United...

  • (Meredith Lee/The Humane Society of the United States) Meredith Lee—Humane Society of the United...

  • (Meredith Lee/The Humane Society of the United States) Meredith Lee—Humane Society of the United...

Monitor staff
Published: 8/17/2017 11:18:40 PM

If Duke, an eight-week old Great Dane, could have spoken for himself Thursday, he might have told the governor he was barking up the wrong tree.

He might have inquired as to why his mother had been treated so poorly for all those months in that Wolfeboro mansion, the place with all the feces and urine and maggots and horror.

He might have wondered why a commission with teeth is being looked into now, when one, minus the teeth, had already existed, before Christina Fay was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty in June.

Instead, Duke sat quietly on a table, a few feet from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who held a press conference and with a stroke of his pen gave hope to dogs in the future. But the governor could do nothing for the 96 Great Danes already mistreated in an illegal business that rocked the state and, to a degree, the country as well.

“This was an executive order from the administration that refurbishes some previous executive orders re-establishing the Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals,” Sununu said, answering my question.

“It changes a little bit. I think the previous commission was established very, very well. It puts a little more oomph into this one.”

That’s what jumped out at me on a day full of photo ops and good cheer. Media and dog lovers and Humane Society officials, gathered under the shade of three huge trees near the Wolfeboro Police Department, were in a good mood.

And for good reason. Measures to tighten restrictions on dog breeders, plus mandatory inspections by the Department of Agriculture, will be reviewed by lawmakers, probably next year.

But something, apparently, was already in place, supposedly formed to help our canine friends avoid what happened in Wolfeboro.

Obviously, it failed.

Before hearing from the governor, I spoke to several state and local officials from the Humane Society, asking them about the potential legislation in the works, wondering if those dozens of mistreated dogs might have avoided this nightmare had laws already been in place.

The vote was unanimous. These Great Danes were dealt a really bad hand, three professionals told me.

“She would have needed to be licensed by the Department of Agriculture, which would have then required her to be inspected on an annual basis,” Lindsay Hamrick, the state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told me, referring to Fay. “That would have caught this explosion of the number of dogs in that one facility who were not receiving adequate care.”

Next, I moved to Deb Cameron, operations manager at the Conway Area Humane Society. She told me the same thing, saying, “This definitely would not have happened. Nope. Absolutely not.”

Then I asked Virginia Moore, executive director at the Conway Area Humane Society, and she said, “I would say no, this would not have happened. I believe that.”

What’s worse, Hamrick said that Fay tried to start a business in Maine two years ago, but once officials there explained to her the state’s regulations and oversight procedure, she moved to Wolfeboro, where she opened De La Sang Monde Great Danes.

From there, staff members working in Fay’s $1.5 million dollar home eventually tipped off state and local officials, sending them cellphone photos from a house of horrors, home to 75 dogs with contagious diseases, partial blindness, skin infections and malnutrition.

Documents show that puppies died and were tossed out in the trash. A veterinarian, paperwork showed, had signed a certificate of health shortly before another vet diagnosed all sorts of problems. Also, Fay’s business has been deemed illegal, and a hearing on a zoning complaint is set for Aug. 30, David Owen, Wolfeboro’s town manager, said Thursday, near the end of the press conference.

Wolfeboro police Chief Dean Rondeau added that more charges are expected to be filed against Fay, including those involving animal cruelty, reckless conduct and endangering the welfare of a minor (a staff member at the Wolfeboro business was 16).

Fay’s trial date on two counts of animal cruelty is set for Oct. 25 in Ossipee district court.

Meanwhile, new laws protecting dogs and monitoring breeding operations most likely will be in place soon. One statute will strengthen the state’s commercial breeding regulation by looking at the number of breeding females a business has, instead of the current law, which grants a license to those who sell 50 puppies in a year or have 10 litters.

“This is a huge bar allowed right now without having to register with the Department of Agriculture,” Hamrick told me.

Also, officials want mandatory inspections of pet stores, shelters and breeders. Right now, inspections are done on a “voluntary” basis, which is a vague ruling, Hamrick said.

“It actually isn’t clear language,” she said. “It doesn’t say how often the Department of Agriculture needs to go in and inspect facilities. In the situation like the Wolfeboro case, no one was getting into that house, so we need state oversight into how these facilities are working.”

Sununu’s signature meant a committee will now look into these matters with more urgency than before. Eight annual meetings will be mandated, and the committee will keep in close contact with officials like Hamrick, Moore and Cameron, each of whom will add input on laws that need to be in place.

They’re needed because the mother of Duke, Lord and Knight was living in awful conditions while pregnant. She gave birth after leaving the house, shortly before police raided the mansion and found 75 other abused dogs.

All are doing well, Hamrick reported. She said she’s confident in Sununu’s vision.

“This case has really highlighted how important these issues are to have a commission that is overseen by the governor,” Hamrick said.

“This is the commission we would go to to say, ‘Where do the laws need to be?’ ” Sununu added.

Duke lay a few feet away, sleepy and silent, not a care in the world.

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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