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Fay seeks return of some Great Danes taken from her

Union Leader Correspondent

February 07. 2018 11:08PM
Christina Fay talks with defense attorney Kent Barker during a Wednesday hearing in Carroll County Superior Court, She asked for the return of 12 of her Great Dane dogs. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

OSSIPEE — Seven and a half months after some 78 Great Dane dogs were seized from a Wolfeboro home, their owner appears receptive to allowing all but 12 to be adopted into new families.

Christina Fay, 59, has repeatedly declined to relinquish ownership of the dogs that are still in the custody of the Humane Society of the United States, and remains potentially liable for the cost of their care.

During a Wednesday hearing in Carroll County Superior Court, her position seems to have softened a bit according to representations made by her defense team.

Attorney Kent Barker said the dozen dogs Fay wants back are all elderly and don’t have much longer to live.

“They are like family to her and she wants to be able to spend some time with them before they pass,” he said.

Assistant Carroll County Attorney Steven Briden objected to the defense’s latest request to have some of the dogs returned to Fay or allowing her to help decide who should get the dogs.

State law requires anyone convicted of animal cruelty to post a $2,000 bond per animal to retain an ownership interest pending appeal, and Fay has failed to do that, Briden said.

Following her December conviction on 10 counts of animal cruelty in the Ossipee Circuit Court, Judge Charles Greenhalgh gave Fay 15 days to post the bond.

The defense asserted that Fay has the financial resources to meet the mandate but that the request for a bond for dogs had proven to be a difficult concept for an insurance company to grasp.

Defense Attorney James Cowles said he was prepared to file a motion allowing for a “judicial lien” on Fay’s 49 Warren Sands Road, Wolfeboro home valued at $1.5 million that is not mortgaged or encumbered in any way.

“I see no basis for the return of any dogs to Ms. Fay,” said Judge Amy Ignatius, who also indicated that she would not issue an order allowing the defendant to be involved in making decisions regarding their placement.

The prosecutor said in prior negotiations about the fate of the dogs, Fay has been unwilling to allow a Great Dane rescue group to place the dogs in new homes as they are affiliated with the HSUS.

“At this point the state has only received proposals that Ms. Fay would decide where they would go,” Briden said.

Attorney Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers, the newest addition to Fay’s defense team, suggested that a third party with input from both sides could identify the best adoptive homes.

Cohen represented that the defense was “narrowing in on some people who want to come here and help,” in placing the dogs, but did not identify any group.

He envisioned 68 dogs being placed in new homes and that 12 others be fostered until they could be returned to Fay.

The judge urged both sides to meet following the hearing to see if they could agree to a placement plan for the dogs.

In December, Fay was convicted of 10 counts of 10 counts of animal cruelty — all Class A misdeameanors punishable by $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Under New Hampshire law, anyone convicted of a Class A misdemeanor punishable by jail time has the right to appeal to the Superior Court and seek a jury trial. Such an appeal is decided without reference to the legal conclusions reached in the Circuit Court. Fay and her lawyers made the decision in December to appeal her convictions.

Jury selection for Fay’s Superior Court trial is scheduled for Feb. 28, but the defense warned on Wednesday it may have to request a delay because of a recent ruling by the court.

The judge granted the defense’s motion to require the state to produce a bill of particulars, a more detailed written itemization of five of the pending charges. Barker said the information the state provides is key to the development of their final trial strategy, and if it becomes available within just days of the jury pick they will ask for a postponement. The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.

Citing the extreme and continued media coverage the case has attracted, the defense is also asking for permission to individually question prospective jurors one at a time, without other jurors present.

Barker asserted the private questioning was necessary to prevent other jurors from being influenced by what they’ve heard, especially when it comes to a person’s feelings about animals and whether they assign them human-like characteristics.

“If they hear other answers it becomes part of their thinking,” Barker said of the rationale for his request that the judge characterized as “unusual, cumbersome and surprising.”

Courts Crime Animals Social issues Ossipee Wolfeboro

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