Breaking News: Guilty verdict for New Hampshire breeder who kept Great Danes in deplorable conditions

After an extraordinary intervention by local law enforcement officials and HSUS personnel this summer to shut down a Great Dane commercial breeder operating out of a mansion in a summer resort community in New Hampshire, justice has been rendered.

Today, a New Hampshire court convicted Christina Fay of 10 counts of animal cruelty. It was a long and contentious trial where the wealthy dog breeder claimed she provided outstanding care to dogs who were in obvious distress and varying states of illness.

The Honorable Judge Charles Greenhalgh handed down the convictions in a 20-page order that included detailed findings of fact supporting each of the 10 guilty verdicts.

Judge Greenhalgh noted that a veterinarian experienced in investigating animal cruelty cases testified that “the conditions within the Defendant’s home [were] the worst she had ever seen.”

“The totality of evidence, including pictures, video and testimony from witnesses in or around Defendant’s home, between the beginning of May and June 16, 2017, consistently show the same conditions,” wrote Judge Greenhalgh. “These included an accumulation of feces and urine, which was not cleaned and built up over time to a point that made walking in the home difficult. In addition, there was a pervasive ammonia odor, so strong that veterinarians and others with experience working in kennels, and with large groups of animals, were unable to remain in the home without taking frequent breaks to get fresh air. The dogs were forced to live in filthy, unsanitary conditions. Some were lying for many days in their own feces and urine and it was covering their coats.”

New Hampshire law states that upon a person’s conviction of cruelty, the court has discretion to determine the fate of the victimized animals. The court will determine the matter of disposition of the dogs and restitution at the sentencing hearing within 30 days.

The HSUS worked with law enforcement agencies, specifically the Wolfeboro Police Department, on the intervention to bring relief to the dogs, and has led the effort to care for the animals at an emergency animal shelter we constructed for their care. The costs, like the dogs, are enormous. Their size, their dietary and daily care needs, as well as their significant medical conditions, have already cost The HSUS more than a half-million dollars and counting. Dozens of the dogs had severe eye and skin infections as well as an array of other health problems. While our supporters have been generous, the dollars raised in the wake of the intervention have not come close to covering our costs for an operation of this scale.

The mansion where Fay lived with the dogs looked stately and opulent from the outside, but when our team entered the dwelling, they discovered something totally at odds with the elegant facade. They told me that the first thing that hit them was an overpowering rancid and putrid smell. There were feces and debris smeared across all the walls to the point where the windows were opaque. There were big dogs who had spent countless hours in cages. There was no sign of available water, just some remains of raw chicken parts strewn around the dogs.

In addition to caring for the dogs during the length of the trial, we have been focused on passing state legislation to reform commercial breeder regulations, strengthen penalties for egregious cruelty, and to address the enormous financial burden on taxpayers and non-profit organizations in caring for animals legally seized from cruelty investigations. New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, with bipartisan support from half of the state’s senators, has introduced legislation to address these issues. We have a powerful ally in Republican Gov. Chris Sununu who announced this summer that he’s planning to work “with advocates and legislators to pass common sense regulation that protects animals, ensuring that the type of situation that took place in Wolfeboro never happens again.”

We are immensely grateful to the Wolfeboro Police Department, the prosecutors who tried this case, the veterinary and animal care community in New Hampshire, and hundreds of volunteers, for providing essential help throughout this six-month process of dismantling the operation, caring for the dogs, and participating in the criminal trial. We also thank Halo Pets and GreaterGood.org for providing food and much-needed attention to this case. We look forward to working with lawmakers and other key decision-makers to remake the legal framework in New Hampshire and prevent any recurrence of this kind of cruelty and neglect.