OSSIPEE, N.H. – A judge on Friday said a woman found guilty of housing dozens of filthy and sick Great Danes in her New Hampshire mansion could serve as little as a month in jail on animal cruelty charges if she undergoes counseling.
The judge followed the prosecution's recommendation for a 12-month sentence for 60-year-old Christina Fay but then suspended all but three months. A hearing will be held June 14 to discuss a counseling plan for Fay and the possibility of further lowering her jail time. She remains free for now.
Judge Amy Ignatius said that while she has no doubt Fay is a caring person who loves her dogs, a jury still found her guilty of negligence. In March, Fay was convicted of 17 counts of animal cruelty. She had pleaded not guilty and said she took care of her 84 dogs and compared them to an art collection.
During the trial, prosecutors showed images of the dogs living in squalid conditions, with animal waste coating the floors.
Ignatius said Fay can own just one animal, spayed or neutered, for the rest of her life.
"What I find tremendously troubling is that as conditions deteriorated, there was no effort to step in and turn things around in a meaningful way," Ignatius said.
Still, Ignatius wanted to strike a fair balance between punishment and rehabilitation, which is why she considered the defense's plea to replace jail time with counseling.
"I merely want to point out to the court that there are other alternatives to jail," defense attorney Kent Barker said. "This was not a violent crime."
Prosecutors said Fay should reimburse the U.S. Humane Society $1.8 million, the cost of caring for the dogs thus far since they were seized last June from a 14,000 square-foot Wolfeboro mansion owned by Fay.
The restitution amount and a plan to find a new home for the dogs also will be determined next month, along with whether one of Fay's dogs should be euthanized after seriously injuring a caretaker.
Fay declined to comment as she left the courthouse.