Last year, the Humane Society of the United States assisted in an extraordinary rescue of 84 Great Danes, some sick, living in filthy conditions inside a New Hampshire mansion. Today, a judge sentenced the breeder, Christina Fay, to jail time, and admonished her for not showing any “signs of remorse” for what she did to the animals in her care.
“There has to be punishment for innocent animals who cannot stand up for themselves,” Judge Amy Ignatius said at the sentencing of Fay, who was found guilty of 17 counts of animal cruelty in March. “There was serious deterioration of conditions in that home and the jury found the dogs suffered as a result.”
In a previous trial last December, Fay was found guilty on 10 counts of misdemeanor cruelty by a judge. She was also ordered to pay $800,000 (for the costs of care for the dogs up to that date), but Fay appealed to a superior court for a jury trial: the one that produced a conviction on the 17 counts of cruelty.
Judge Ignatius sentenced Fay to 12 months in prison, of which nine months will be suspended. If the defendant submits a rehabilitation proposal and the court approves of the plan, the judge stated she might consider reducing the 90-day jail term to 30 days.
A hearing is scheduled for June 14, at which time the restitution and the rehoming of the dogs will be discussed, unless the defendant chooses to relinquish custody as part of a court-approved plan. According to observers in court today, it is clear that the judge has the welfare of the animals at the forefront of her mind, and we are hopeful of a positive outcome.
The whole saga of horrors began to unfold in June 2017, when members of our Animal Rescue Team and volunteers from the Pope Memorial SPCA and Conway Area Humane Society entered the opulent mansion alongside officials of Wolfeboro Police Department, which had requested our assistance. The responders encountered an overpowering smell, and feces and debris were smeared across all the walls to the point where the windows were opaque. A number of dogs in the home appeared to have spent countless hours in cages with no access to water. Many of the dogs were ill and in distress when we found them, and suffered from an array of health problems, including severe eye issues and symptoms associated with communicable illnesses.
We have led the effort to care for the dogs at an emergency animal shelter we constructed especially for them. This has been an expensive undertaking: the cost of constructing and maintaining a temporary animal shelter, staffing it with experienced consultants trained as veterinary technicians, professional dog trainers and animal shelter managers, bringing in Animal Rescue Team volunteers from all over the country, and providing extensive veterinary care to the dogs has cost the Humane Society of the United States more than $1.8 million to date.
We are eager to put the cruelty the dogs endured behind them and to partner with our shelter and rescue allies to find them the loving homes they deserve. We hope the court will award custody of the dogs to the state and the Humane Society of the United States. If the defendant does not appeal the forfeiture, we will pursue rehoming the dogs with energy and devotion.
We are also working with New Hampshire lawmakers and Gov. Chris Sununu to address the enormous financial burden on taxpayers and non-profit organizations for the care of animals legally seized from cruelty investigations. More than 30 other states now have such cost of care laws.
The New Hampshire state senate has already passed a bipartisan bill that puts some of the financial burden of caring for rescued animals on the perpetrators of the cruelty rather than on taxpayers, reforms commercial breeder regulations and strengthens penalties for egregious cruelty. The bill is now in conference committee along with a misguided house version that guts the goals of the senate bill and weakens existing animal cruelty laws that passed more recently. We are committed to ensuring a viable version of this bill that will benefit both animals and the residents of New Hampshire comes out of the conference committee, and we are grateful to Gov. Sununu and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who introduced the Senate bill, for their leadership.
P.S. Earlier this month, I wrote about a cruelty case in Bangladesh where some men buried two dogs and 14 puppies alive. I am pleased to report that the security guard responsible for this crime has received a prison sentence of six months. This is the first time a prison sentence has been handed down in an animal cruelty case in Bangladesh, according to media outlets that reported the story.