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Defendant denies cruelty in Great Dane case

Union Leader Correspondent

October 03. 2017 9:49PM
Christina Fay, 59, formerly of Wolfeboro, prepares to testify as her attorney, Kent Barker of Nashua, swears her in Tuesday. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

OSSIPEE — The Wolfeboro woman facing animal cruelty charges for her alleged treatment of 75 Great Dane dogs seized from her home in June took the witness stand in court on Tuesday and testified that they were never without food, water or love.

Defense attorney Kent Barker of Nashua told the judge his client, Christina Fay, faces substantial financial exposure for every day the dogs remain in the care and custody of the Humane Society of the United States.

During the 3 1/2-hour hearing, attorney Simon Brown, who is helping to prosecute the case, said if a conviction is secured against Fay he will take legal steps to have ownership of the dogs forfeited, allowing them to go to new homes. During her testimony, Fay said she would never surrender ownership of the dogs and wants them back.

“The point is (Fay) took better care of them than they did and to get them out of the care of the Humane Society of the United States and back with my client,” said Barker.

Brown urged the judge to deny Fay’s request to take the dogs back, arguing that under state law it is appropriate for the defendant to be separated from the dogs pending trial.

The dogs at issue are European Great Danes that differ from their American counterparts in that some generations back they were crossed with mastiffs and as a result are bigger boned, and while they grow rapidly in height, Fay said they take time to fill out. One male dog she owned gained 45 pounds in his third year, she testified.

The dogs require specialized care and are commonly afflicted with a variety of medical conditions, including cancer and cardiomyopathy — an enlarged heart that can result in sudden death. The typical lifespan for the canine giants is about five years, and as a deep chested breed they are prone to bloat — a condition in which the stomach can flip and if it twists, proves fatal.

Fay said she routinely had a medical procedure on her dogs in which their stomach was sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent it from twisting. She testified that she had never lost a dog as a result of bloat.

Dr. Samantha Ann Moffitt, a veterinarian who is licensed in Virginia and who testified without compensation on Fay’s behalf, said many of the medical conditions cited in the criminal complaints are common but not serious.

Cherry eye, a condition in which the third eyelid prolapses, can be surgically repaired but even after being stitched back into place it can pop out again. Putting Great Danes under general anesthesia presents its own risks, as their large lungs make them difficult to ventilate, the drugs are hard on their liver and they have a lengthy recovery time.

Among the motions argued during the hearing was the defense’s request to void the bulk of the charges. Barker maintained the criminal complaints did not provide enough detail about the actions Fay is alleged to have taken or not taken, resulting in the medical conditions the state charges amounted to cruelty.

“The proof and evidence of these offenses will come out at trial,” said attorney Timothy Morgan, who prosecutes cases for the Wolfeboro Police Department.

During the hearing, Barker questioned how the Humane Society of the United States had become a party to the case, noting no attorney has ever filed an appearance on their behalf.

“It’s important to follow the money,” he said, charging that the HSUS has raised some $300,000 to $500,000 using publicity generated by the raid of Fay’s home.

“They are using the dogs to shill for money,” he said.

Barker introduced two black three-ringed binders as exhibits, telling the court they contained all of the veterinary records for dogs in Fay’s care during 2016-2017.

During her testimony, Fay said she was trained as a veterinary technician and has had a lifelong interest and passion for animals.

“I love and adore them and it brings me great joy,” Fay said of her becoming a European Great Dane fancier who, after buying her first domestically in 2011, began importing them.

“They are basically a black lab in disguise. There temperament is very sweet,” she said.

Under questioning by the prosecution, Fay said she felt she could adequately care for 75 Great Danes by herself on Saturdays and Sundays when her kennel help was not working.

“Do you agree that is a large number to house at your residence,” asked Brown.

“But not one of them was without food, water or love,” Fay replied.

She maintained the dogs were on a strict schedule that included being fed a raw meat diet of chicken, duck and mackerel supplemented with a mix of vitamins.

Her 45-acre property was professionally fenced and the dogs were let out to have access to water and exercise four times a day.

Water was not left in their kennels to prevent dogs from spilling it, or fouling it, and to prevent the risk of entrapment in a pail handle. When the dogs went out, they were observed to make sure each was drinking, Fay said.

She denied that any of her dogs were ever fed maggot-infested meat. Her standing instructions were that if there was any foul odor from any meat it was to be thrown out.

Moffitt, who was allowed to observe the dogs on Monday but not physically examine them, testified that in her opinion all of the dogs were stressed being in a kennel environment and would be better off if they were returned home.

Judge Charles Greenhalgh said he would issue a ruling as quickly as possible as the trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 26.

Courts Crime Animals Ossipee Wolfeboro

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