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Works of Art, or Neglected Dogs? In Wolfeboro Animal Abuse Case, a Judge Now Must Decide

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Lyric, Hamlet, ZZ and Spook. Fantasia and Joue. To Christina Fay, they were works of art, animals lovingly cared for in her Wolfeboro mansion.

To prosecutors, these European Great Danes—75 in total—all removed from Fay’s care in June, were victims of mistreatment and cruelty.

Fay took the stand Tuesday in Ossipee District Court, where she is on trial for 12 counts of animal cruelty. Dressed in a white shirt and black sweater, Fay rejected the idea that she ran a “puppy mill” or even should be classified as a commercial breeder. To her, raising dogs and improving their bloodlines was a passion.

“A great privilege,” Fay testified. “To me, they are Van Goghs and Rembrandts.”

During more than five hours on the witness stand, Fay and her attorneys worked to describe a loving, dog-filled household, complete with McDonald’s hamburgers as treats and time spent roaming free in the meadow on her 54-acre property.

This image of finely bred dogs in bucolic countryside stands in stark contrast to the pictures released by police after a raid of Fay’s 14,000 square foot home in June. Responding officers called it one of the “worst crime scenes” they’d ever seen, with dogs covered in their own waste, and floors slick with urine. Many of the dogs, prosecutors allege, were in need of immediate medical care, with issues ranging from conjunctivitis to pressure sores and open wounds.

After the raid, health officials declared the home unfit for human occupation, posting a warning sign on the property.

During cross examination, Fay said what officers found that day was the result of her operation suddenly being short staffed, a “perfect storm” with more dogs than usual on the property and unseasonably warm weather keeping the animals indoors.

Was she guilty of mistreatment or neglect?

“Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

As proof, Fay says she spent lavishly on medical care and a high quality diet for the dogs, with her monthly bills running north of $25,000.

“I never had any aspiration to make a profit, or even to break even. But I sure did want to share the incredible beauty and treasure that I have.”

The animals are currently in the care of the Humane Society, which has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses during five months of caring for the dogs.  

After closing statements, Judge Charles Greenhalgh told attorneys he expects to rule on the case shortly. 

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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