A Wolfeboro woman found guilty of animal cruelty for her mistreatment of dozens of Great Danes will avoid jail time.
Christina Fay was sentenced last month to serve 90 days, but a Carroll County Superior Court judge on Thursday modified that sentence after Fay submitted a plan for counseling.
Fay, whose Wolfeboro estate was raided last June, was ordered to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution to the Humane Society of the United States, which has been caring for the animals while they have been held as evidence.
Currently, there are 78 animals in the state’s custody. Judge Amy Ignatius ordered that all but one dog be forfeited to the state, clearing the way for their adoption to suitable homes. A lower court judge allowed Fay to maintain ownership of one dog, named Etta Betta.
“We think there have to be a signal shown to folks that when you take domesticated animals into your house, they are your responsibility to take care of them, and if they are suffering, if they are in pain, if they are not getting the care that they need, then you are going to be held accountable for that,” said Assistant Carroll County Attorney Steven Briden, who led the prosecution.
Fay was found guilty of 17 counts of cruelty after a nearly two-week jury trial. A lower court judge also found Fay guilty on 10 counts of cruelty last December, prompting an appeal.
After hearing her sentence, Fay exited the court surrounded by attorneys and supporters.
“I’m gutted. I’m feeling gutted,” she told reporters. “I lost everything I love. Everything.”
Fay’s lawyers argued during sentencing that jail time was inappropriate given Fay’s lack of criminal background. They also argued that the bills submitted by the Humane Society were inflated with expenses unrelated to the care of the dogs. The judge rejected that argument, and issued full restitution, but said that if the parties find inappropriate charges, the final restitution amount may be adjusted.
The Humane Society will work with partner agencies to begin adopting the dogs to appropriate homes. Fay’s European Great Danes are a prized but expensive breed, often requiring special care and medical treatment. All dogs will be spayed or neutered before adoption.
“At the end of the day, what’s really important is that these dogs have the ability to go to homes, and that they can be happy, and safe, and healthy, which is what they should have had from the first place,” said attorney Briden.
Lawyers for Fay indicated they will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, but consented to the rehoming of the dogs while the litigation process continues.
Under the terms of the sentencing, Fay is required to attend counseling sessions twice a month for 12 months, with quarterly reports provided to the court. The content of those sessions will remain sealed from the public.
The judge also weighed in on the fate of Bam Bam, a male dog that attacked a caregiver earlier this year. The state issued a motion requesting that the dog be euthanized, citing the severity of the attack and the danger it would pose if adopted to a private owner.
In court, Fay said she would be willing to take on care of Bam Bam, but that she would also accept an order for the dog to be put down, provided Fay be present for the procedure. Judge Ignatius said euthanasia was the correct course, and urged the state to find a way for Fay to attend the procedure.