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Judge allows NHSPCA to intervene in cruelty case, seeks more than $206K for care of 24 German Shepherds

Union Leader Correspondent

October 11. 2018 10:06AM
The NHSPCA is asking a judge to award it custody of 31 German Shepherd dogs including this one all seized from a Bristol woman charged with animal cruelty. (COURTESY)

Jennifer Choate of Bristol is scheduled to stand trial next month on 29 counts of animal cruelty. The animal welfare group that has been caring for the seized dogs is asking a judge to award it more than $206,000 in costs it has incurred caring for them. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

NORTH HAVERHILL — The N.H. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been granted its request to be made party to a criminal case involving a Bristol woman charged with mistreating more than two dozen German Shepherd dogs in two towns.

Jennifer Choate, 49, was convicted by a judge on 29 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in the Plymouth Circuit Court in July but has appealed seeking a jury trial in Grafton County Superior Court. Her sentence of six-months in jail, payment of more than $206,000 in restitution to the animal welfare group and forfeiture of all the dogs, was stayed as a result of the appeal. A jury trial is now scheduled to be held in November.

If a jury finds Choate guilty, the trial judge could impose the lower court’s sentence or decide to hand down different sanctions.

A hearing on the motion to intervene is scheduled for Oct. 23. The NHSPCA is seeking to recoup the cost of caring for the dogs since nine were seized on Dec. 13, 2017, in Bristol and 22 others on January 2, 2018, in Alexandria, asserting that the expenses have continued to mount as Choate has declined repeated requests to relinquish custody allowing them to be removed from the stresses of a group kennel environment and adopted into new homes.

Judge Lawrence MacLeod granted the NHSPCA intervenor status but declined to act on their other requests until after hearing arguments from both the prosecutor and the defense. The animal welfare group has asked the judge to issue an order requiring Choate to comply with the Circuit Court order that she post a $70,000 bond as security toward the restitution amount. It is also seeking an order awarding the society permanent custody of the animals.

Under state law a defendant who appeals an animal cruelty conviction can be required to post a bond of up to $2,000 per animal that can be awarded as liquidated damages if the guilty finding is upheld. In Choate’s case the NHSPCA is seeking a $70,000 bond to cover 35 animals, 31 dogs, three rabbits and a chicken.

Choate is charged with failing to provide 24 dogs with adequate food and water, adversely impacting their health and well-being and for hooking heat lamps to cages in which dogs were kept unattended, causing a fire that killed 29 of them in Alexandria.

Two of the criminal complaints charge that Choate improperly placed “shock collars” on two German shepherd dogs, causing wounds around their necks.

Bristol police filed five other charges alleging that Choate deprived seven German shepherds of shelter by storing them inside a basement without proper kennels, or a source of heat when temperatures were as low as 12 degrees. An alternate theory of the crime charges that Choate kept the seven dogs in cages that were not dry or of a proportionate size to allow the natural body heat of the dog to be retained, when temperatures were routinely in the low double digits.

Other complaints charge that Choate failed to treat ear infections in two dogs, despite having been told by police that they needed to be given care. Choate also allegedly failed to treat an infection in a dog’s paw and that as a result an emergency amputation was needed to save its leg.

Courts Crime Animals Alexandria Bristol

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