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Definition of healthy weight for dogs argued in Great Danes trial

Union Leader Correspondent

October 19. 2017 11:30PM
Dr. Monique Kramer, a veterinarian retained by the Humane Society of the United States, testifies about a body condition scale used to determine whether a dog is too thin. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

Lawyers for Christina Fay, the woman accused of mistreating 75 Great Danes that were seized from her Wolfeboro home in June, are continuing to solicit testimony that the definition of cruelty can be subjective.

Fay, 59, is facing 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and her trial entered its third day on Thursday in the 3rd Circuit, District Division Ossipee Court.

Dr. Monique Kramer, the lead veterinarian on the case for the Humane Society of the United States, was questioned about whether reasonable people could disagree on what the appropriate level of care was for an animal.

During her testimony, defense counsel James Cowles had Kramer read the mission statement for Long Journey to a New Beginning Pet Rescue — of which she is president — which states the group believes that animals are sentient beings who are not merely pets, but family members and strive to find them homes that share this view.

She testified that in conducting field examinations on the dogs as they were removed from Fay’s home, she assigned each of them a body weight score from 1-9 using a form provided by the HSUS. In her opinion a body score of 4 was thin.

When the defense provided her with Nestle/Purina’s body weigh scale, Kramer agreed it used the same physical descriptions but that a score of either 4 or 5 was considered “ideal” by that standard that had been peer reviewed.

The defense has repeatedly claimed the dogs are a European variety that have myriad health conditions and characteristics specific to them.

On Wednesday, the defense focused its questioning of the state’s witnesses on the link between local police and the Humane Society of the United States.

The defense has asserted that a memorandum of understanding signed between Wolfeboro police and the HSUS amounts to a contract, and that the animal welfare organization’s interest in the case was based solely on generating donations.

But a Humane Society executive testified that the nonprofit had spent $478,000 as of Oct. 13 caring for the dogs, had received $185,000 in cash donations and $200,000 in in-kind donations of equipment and supplies.

Jessica Lauginiger, director of animal crimes for HSUS, testified that the private animal welfare organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with police but had no direct contact with the witnesses in the case.

“We offered our services and resources to police,” Lauginiger said.

“Who is running this? Was it you or the police?” questioned defense co-counsel Kent Barker.

Lauginiger said the June 16 seizure at Fay’s 149 Warren Sands Road home, “was very much a team effort.”

Barker said he wanted to talk about something else that wasn’t on Lauginiger’s resume. He drew a large dollar sign on a white board and declared, “the money.”

Lauginiger said she wasn’t involved with HSUS fundraising, but agreed that photographs and videotape of the conditions found inside Fay’s home were posted online.

“We release videos and photographs to show supporters what our teams are doing. If they want to donate they can,” she said.

Barker argued that the memorandum of understanding was a contract, and that what the HSUS got in return was to use “the movies” and the photographs to raise money.

“That’s not what is stated here,” Lauginiger said, while looking at a copy of the agreement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Barker made an oral motion asking the judge to suppress the search warrant asserting that the HSUS did not have authority to take evidence from the scene and “release it to the media for fundraising.”

In a federal case, Barker said, when a reporter and a photographer accompanied police on a raid, a judge ruled they were acting for private, not law enforcement purposes, and voided it.

In objecting, prosecutor Simon Brown said a judge signed the warrant that authorized everything that was seized.

“The fact that the Humane Society aided does not detract from the validity of the search warrant,” he said.

Defense attorney James Cowles of Wolfeboro, focused his questioning on connecting the HSUS to the raid.

“This is probably the first time you’ve ever ceded evidence in a criminal case to an outside agency?” Cowles asked Wolfeboro police officer Michael Straugh, the lead investigator in the case.

Straugh replied that the case was unique and that his department didn’t have an evidence room that would house 75 Great Danes.

Courts Animals Laconia Wolfeboro

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