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Christina Fay continues to seek appeal on animal cruelty charges

Union Leader Correspondent

January 30. 2018 3:19PM
Christina Fay, 59 formerly of Wolfeboro, was back in court on Tuesday preparing to appeal her convictions for animal cruelty. A jury will hear her case in Carroll County Superior Court in mid-February. (BEA LEWIS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Wolfeboro Police Officer Michael Strauch the lead investigator in the Christina Fay Great Dane cruelty case testifies during a Tuesday morning hearing. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

OSSIPEE — A former Wolfeboro woman found guilty of animal cruelty for her treatment of some of the 78 Great Danes seized from her home last June was back in court Tuesday laying the groundwork to appeal her convictions.

Christina Fay, 59, is now scheduled to stand trial in mid-February if her legal team, which now includes three attorneys, is able to finish arguing numerous motions during another hearing set for Feb. 7.

Attorney Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers has joined the defense and told the judge his firm is dedicated to pets and pet ownership.

Issues the defense focused on during Tuesday's three-hour-long hearing mimicked some of the same topics it had raised when the case went to trial before a judge in the Ossipee circuit court.

The defense renewed its efforts to either have the 10 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty thrown out, or to require the state to produce a bill of particulars, a more detailed written itemization of the charges.

Defense Attorney Kent Barker argued that the charges do not provide enough detail of the alleged conduct of his client in order for him to defend her at trial. The bulk of the medical conditions or illnesses that the state says constitute cruelty are heritable defects or benign conditions inherent in European Great Danes and are not painful, Barker told the judge.

Defense Attorney James Cowles of Wolfeboro claimed that Wolfeboro police exceeded the scope of the search warrant because they failed to notify the judge who approved the raid that the Humane Society of the United States would be involved.

"Our animal control officer has a pickup truck with a cage in the back and a catch pole. So we were severely outgunned on this one," testified Wolfeboro Police Officer Michael Strauch, the lead investigator.

Cowles asserted that the Humane Society became de facto law enforcement by their involvement in the search and seizure and argued that video footage and photographs taken by society workers were used in a publicity campaign that slandered Fay and raised at least $350,000 in donations for the animal welfare organization as of October.

The day after the search warrant was executed, Cowles said, newspaper headlines said Wolfeboro police had termed Fay's 49 Warren Sands Road home a suspected puppy mill, a term used to describe a large-scale dog breeding operation in which low overhead to increase profits is the prime objective.

"Does anything about keeping dogs in a mansion scream low overhead to you?" Cowles pointedly asked.

Strauch said he hadn't been personally involved with the release of information to the media.

Prosecutor Simon Brown said state law allows police to take "suitable assistants" when executing a search warrant, and that in a case where 78 Great Danes were to be seized, the animal welfare group certainly met that definition.

In arguing for the outright dismissal of the charges, Barker said, many of the complaints fail to provide an explanation of how Fay's conduct or inaction allegedly harmed the dogs. Other complaints say multiple dogs were suffering from ear infections and skin and eye problems but lack a direct connection to a specific dog via a definitive lab test for example. Other charges cite the dogs' exposure to high levels of ammonia gas created by the accumulation of animal waste inside the house, but fail to specify what that level is and at what level it might be toxic.

"There are no objective standards," Barker said.

Brown countered that each complaint tracks state law and provides sufficient facts for the defense to be able to mount its arguments.

"It's important to recognize that every one of these dogs was individually examined and the medical issues were observed by veterinarians," Brown told the judge, explaining that information had been shared with the defense as part of the discovery process.

"They are not in the dark," he concluded.

Assistant Carroll County Attorney Steven Briden said that if a guilty verdict is returned following a jury trial, the state will assert ownership of the one dog Fay is allowed to possess while out on bail and seek court approval to rehome it.

The judge took all of the issues under advisement and will issue a written ruling at a later date.

Courts Crime Public Safety Animals Lifestyle Social issues Wolfeboro

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