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Judge rules veterinarian can't be compelled to testify at Great Dane cruelty trial

Union Leader Correspondent

October 24. 2017 8:20PM

Bartlett veterinarian Dr. Kate Battenfelder 

OSSIPEE — A judge has ruled a veterinarian and her assistant cannot be compelled to testify in the animal cruelty trial of a Wolfeboro woman because the state refused to grant them immunity from prosecution.

Christina Fay, 59, is charged with 12 misdemeanors accusing her of abusing dozens of Great Danes inside her Wolfeboro mansion.

On Tuesday, the trial slowed to a crawl after a lawyer representing two witnesses called by the defense challenged subpoenas mandating that they take the witness stand and answer questions about the treatment they provided to Fay’s dogs at True North Veterinary Hospital in Bartlett.

Attorney William Albrecht said he advised both his clients, veterinarian Dr. Kate Battenfelder and veterinary technician Stephanie Macomber, to assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

In asking the judge to void the subpoenas issued to his clients, Albrecht cited newspaper stories in which Wolfeboro Police Chief Don Rondeau identified Battenfelder as a “person of interest” in the department’s ongoing investigation. Battenfelder examined the allegedly abused dogs before police were called. According to court records, she signed health certificates for dogs that were found to have communicable diseases.

During arguments, Albrecht faulted the defense team for not raising the issue before trial, now in its fifth day.

Fay’s defense attorney, Kent Barker, said his client would be denied a fair trial without the testimony of medical professionals who observed the dogs.

He said the defense team moved to have the trial begin as soon as possible so Fay could be exonerated and regain custody of the dogs.

“I appreciate the advice that there were other ways that this could be handled,” said Barker. But the shortened trial schedule provided little time to prepare, he said.

Prosecutor Tim Morgan said the state would not grant immunity because records from the veterinary hospital were already in evidence.

In another argument, Fay’s defense argued the search warrant that allowed police onto Fay’s 149 Warren Sands Road property should be invalidated because police did not tell the judge who authorized the warrant the Humane Society workers would also be present.

The defense argued participation by the animal welfare organization exceeded the scope of the search warrant. Photographs and videos taken by staff during the raid were immediately disseminated to news agencies, subjecting Fay to trial by public opinion, violating her right to due process.

Those images were used as a fundraising tool by the HSUS, Jim Cowles, defense attorney, asserted. “This went worldwide almost immediately,” he told the judge.

“In this case a private agency accompanied police and took pictures and used it for its own private purposes,” he continued.

The judge said he would issue a ruling later.

Courts Animals Wolfeboro

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