Veterinarian looks to avoid testifying in Great Dane abuse caseBy BEA LEWIS
Sunday News Correspondent
October 21. 2017 10:05PM
OSSIPEE - A Bartlett veterinarian who provided care to Great Danes owned by Christina Fay, the woman now on trial for animal cruelty charges, will soon face a judge herself.
Ossipee District Court Judge Charles Greenhalgh, who is presiding over Fay's trial, announced last week that a so-called Richards hearing will be held Tuesday in response to a filing by an attorney representing Dr. Kate Battenfelder. The veterinarian is asking the court to invalidate a subpoena issued by Fay's legal team.
Arguments will address whether Battenfelder can be compelled to testify. Battenfelder repeatedly treated the defendant's dogs prior to their June 16 seizure by police and the Humane Society of the United States. Seventy-five Great Danes were taken from Fay's De La Sang Monde Great Danes kennel. Officials said many of the animals were ill and covered in their own waste.
Why the True North Veterinary Hospital doctor is fighting defense efforts to have Battenfelder take the witness stand have not been disclosed.
Typically, a Richards hearing is held when there is concern that a witness, when being questioned under oath, could say something that could potentially incriminate herself or himself.
During the trial, witnesses' testimony suggested that Battenfelder's treatment recommendations differed from those of veterinarians retained by the Humane Society.
About a month and a half after Fay's arrest, Wolfeboro Police Chief Dean Rondeau said he was "interested" to learn that health certificates signed by Battenfelder gave some dogs high marks for their physical condition, and that a subsequent examination done shortly after by Dr. Monique Kramer, who's since been retained by the Humane Society, found that those same dogs were suffering from contagious diseases, according to court documents.
"There are severe discrepancies between what one veterinarian has said and what the other had observed almost immediately after the examinations were completed by the first doctor," Rondeau said.
Marilyn Kelly has testified during the trial that she worked for Fay despite the conditions that she observed, after the defendant repeatedly assured her that she was trying to hire additional staff to clean up after the dogs.
Kelly, who once worked for Battenfelder, said she accompanied a co-worker to True North with one of Fay's dogs and disclosed the conditions the dogs were being kept in at Fay's home. According to Kelly, Battenfelder refused to look at the photos Kelly tried to show her, documenting the conditions. Kelly, who was living in an apartment over the garage at Fay's home, testified that when she returned to the 149 Warren Sands Road property, she learned that Battenfelder had called Fay and reported the allegations that Kelly had made against her.
Kelly also testified that when dogs that had been issued health certificates by Battenfelder were examined by another veterinarian, prior to the raid, they were found to have a variety of medical ailments.
During the course of Fay's trial, the defense has introduced records showing that over a two-year period beginning in January 2015, dogs owned by the defendant were treated 289 times by Battenfelder.
According to state online-licensing records, Battenfelder was issued a state license to practice veterinary medicine in May 2007 and has never been subject to any actions by the N.H. Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Efforts to reach her were unsuccessful, but in a prior Facebook posting, Battenfelder wrote, "In our past interactions (Fay) appeared to have both the funding and capacity to care for a large number of dogs. We believe the findings must have been a recent turn of events and we are heartbroken that things deteriorated to that level."
The N.H. Veterinary Practice Act authorizes the state board to undertake disciplinary proceedings if upon its own initiative, or as a result of a written complaint, it determines that a licensee has committed misconduct. Unfitness or incompetency to practice the profession, among other things, also could lead to disciplinary action.