84 Great Danes rescued from suspected puppy mill in Wolfeboro
WOLFEBORO — Police and animal welfare groups rescued 84 Great Dane dogs living in squalid conditions on Friday and have charged the owner with animal neglect.
Christina Fay, 60, of 149 Warren Sands Road, Wolfeboro, was arrested on two misdemeanor counts of neglect and released on personal recognizance bail on the condition that she not possess any animals while the charges remain pending against her.
Wolfeboro Chief of Police Dean Rondeau said the investigation is ongoing and that additional arrests could be made and more charges filed.
The seized dogs ranged in age from puppies (some just a few weeks old) to juvenile and adult dogs. A number of the massive canines had free roam of the house — a gated mansion with eight bedrooms and nine baths.
Authorities predict that many of the Great Danes rescued will turn out to be pregnant. Nine more puppies were seized from property Fay owns in Bartlett.
Lindsay Hamrick, N.H. State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, said she was struck by the juxtaposition.
“It was horrifying in and of itself, but I’ve never seen conditions like this in a house of that magnitude.”
The conditions were so squalid that the dogs were sliding in their own waste which was smeared not only on the floor, but the walls, windows and furniture. A food preparation area for the dogs was littered with rotting chicken, she said
Wolfeboro assessing records value the house for tax purposes at $1.45 million. The mansion is set apart from neighbors off a dirt country road.
Police said Fay and two other adults, whom they declined to identify, were living at the mansion.
No one answered the intercom at the gated compound where the dogs were seized and a man entering the property wouldn’t give his name but said Fay was not there.
“There is a perception that puppy mills happen only in the Midwest and the South. Clearly there are some in New Hampshire. We are not immune,” said Hamrick on Saturday at a news conference held at Wolfeboro Town Hall.
All of the dogs are now receiving needed veterinary services and are being housed and cared for at an undisclosed location in New Hampshire. As the dogs are evidence in the criminal case, they will be unavailable for adoption while the charges remain pending.
Fay was selling puppies for $2,500 apiece under the kennel name De La Sang Monde. Her website includes multiple photographs of dogs posed in areas of the house that seem clean and on the grounds outside.
“In looking at the photos, people would assume that the dogs were being humanely raised which is exactly the opposite in what they were living,” said Hamrick.
Hamrick cautioned that consumers can unwittingly support puppy mills if they buy dogs online or are denied access to where they are being raised.
“At some point, I got choked up. It is terrible to see animals treated like this,” said Tona McCarthy, a cruelty investigator with Pope Memorial SPCA in Concord, who received a written complaint and photos about the inhumane conditions at the Wolfeboro property.
“The conditions were deplorable. I’m trying hard to find words to describe it. It was certainly a situation that no animal should be kept in,” said Wolfeboro Police Officer Michael Straugh, who is the department’s K-9 handler.
Rondeau said his department launched their investigation on May 9, working with McCarthy and others and explained that arrest and search warrants weren’t served until Friday because of the logistics of the rescue operation.
Hamrick, who 5-feet. 3-inches tall, said some of the pony-sized dogs could look her in the eye and some tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds. While the state is blessed with a network of animal welfare organizations none are equipped to handle so many large dogs, with varied medical needs, all at the same time.
The Humane Society of the United States brought an air-conditioned tractor trailer unit to transport the seized dogs as well as a large stock trailer. The dogs were so large and numerous that Hamrick said they had to call two horse trailers to the scene as well.
The HSUS is absorbing one hundred percent of the cost for caring for the dogs. People wishing to donate to help offset the cost can do so at humanesociety.org/rescueteam.
Fay is scheduled to be arraigned in the Ossipee Circuit Court on Aug. 3.