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N.H. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Of Woman Convicted Of Animal Cruelty

Todd Bookman / NHPR

The New Hampshire Supreme Court is upholding the conviction of a Wolfeboro dog breeder who was found guilty of animal cruelty.

In 2017, police seized 75 Great Danes from the home of Christina Fay, with many of the dogs in need of medical attention. Wolfeboro Police contracted the Humane Society of the United States to assist in the seizure of the dogs, and to care for them while they were held as evidence.

Fay’s appeal centered on whether images and video taken by Humane Society employees should have been accepted as evidence by the trial court. She also criticized the non-profit for using those images in fundraising appeals.

In a unanimous opinion issued Wednesday, the justice dismissed Fay’s claims that her constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure and her right to privacy were violated.

“Because we have concluded that a constitutional violation did not occur, we need not address the defendant’s arguments regarding whether suppression of the evidence obtained from the search would be an appropriate remedy for such a violation,” the opinion reads.

During oral arguments in February, lawyers for the Attorney General’s office told the justices it would be improper to throw out a criminal conviction over allegations the non-profit improperly used photos from inside of Fay’s house in fundraising appeals.

The Humane Society said it incurred nearly $2 million in expenses caring for the animals during Fay’s two lower court trials. All but one of the dogs were eventually relinquished to adopted homes, while a judge permitted Fay to keep one Great Dane as a pet.

She was ultimately found guilty of 17 counts of animal cruelty, and ordered to pay restitution to the Humane Society.

Fay’s lawyers contended that her constitutional rights were violated when employees of an outside entity were permitted to participate in and document the search of Fay’s 12,000 square foot mansion.

The images and videos showing magnificent large breed dogs set against the squalor of an unkempt estate helped Fay’s case gain international attention. The incident prompted state lawmakers to reexamine how courts process animal abuse cases, and led to changes in how local municipalities pay for caring for seized animals.

In addition to appealing her criminal conviction, Fay filed a $35 million civil lawsuit against the Humane Society and town of Wolfeboro. That case remains ongoing in a federal court in Washington D.C.

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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