OSSIPEE, N.H. – A woman who was found guilty of housing dozens of filthy and sick Great Danes in her New Hampshire mansion will serve no jail time, but is responsible for paying back nearly $2 million for their care until they find new homes, a judge ruled Thursday.
Christina Fay was sentenced on 17 animal cruelty charges. Prosecutors initially had recommended a yearlong jail sentence, but Judge Amy Ignatius said last month she favored her serving as little as a month in jail.
"In light of the willingness to engage in meaningful therapy, I am willing to suspend all of the time," Ignatius said Thursday, prompting gasps from the courtroom.
She said Fay can keep only two dogs. A dog which seriously injured a caretaker will be euthanized and new homes will be found for the remainder of the animals. Some of the dogs died before the trial.
"I lost everything I love," Fay, 60, said after the court session. She said was "gutted" by Ignatius' ruling.
The judge said Fay is "dealing with a lot in terms of her life" and that jail time would have been too disruptive to her family, who Fay said she supports financially. Fay's lawyers said her son died last month and that she has several other children with psychological issues. Her attorneys said she shouldn't be responsible for paying restitution to the Humane Society of the United States.
Authorities seized 84 dogs from Fay's Wolfeboro home in June. They said the animals were living in filth and suffering from health problems. Fay said she wanted to be the primary U.S. collector of European Great Danes and had been acquiring and breeding them since 2014.
This was Fay's second trial. She was convicted of 10 counts of animal cruelty in a lower court and appealed. It is unclear whether she has plans to appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
"She does indeed feel badly about what happened, more so for the dogs than anybody else," Attorney Kent Barker said.
Assistant County Attorney Steve Briden said it is Fay's duty to pay restitution.
Lindsay Hamrick, the director of the New Hampshire Humane Society, said she was "thrilled" the judge ordered Fay to pay the organization back, but said she wanted a harsher sentence.
"We wish that there was a harsher sentence in terms of jail time given the gravity of the cruelty that was occurring, but for us the dogs are the number one priority," Hamrick said. "These dogs have waited for a long time for this outcome, and we're ready to assist in the process of getting them into forever homes."