OSSIPEE, N.H. – A woman who had dozens of filthy and sick Great Danes living in her New Hampshire mansion will serve no jail time for animal cruelty but must pay nearly $800,000 for the care they received after being seized, a judge said Thursday.
Authorities took 84 dogs from Christina Fay's Wolfeboro home in June, saying the animals were living in filth and suffering from health problems.
Fay said she loved the dogs and pleaded not guilty. Judge Charles Greenhalgh convicted her and refused her request to have the dogs returned to her so she could find homes for them. He said the Humane Society would handle that. He said she could pick a dog to keep but can never again own more than one dog.
Fay, who plans to appeal, said the proceeding was unfair and that her heart has been broken.
"It has all turned into a salacious, tabloid story, which is so inappropriate," she said. "There are so many untruths out there. I was vilified."
An appeal would mean a new trial in superior court. It also would mean the dogs would remain with the Humane Society until that trial is over. The society has said its expenses so far total $774,000, and the town of Wolfeboro and a local shelter are to be reimbursed about $17,500.
Fay testified that she took good care of the dogs and that the town brought the charges to force her to shut down her kennel because neighbors had complained about the barking.
A veterinarian testified that Fay's care of the dogs "was more than adequate." Samantha Moffitt reviewed records and saw many of the dogs, but after they were taken from Fay.
After hearing testimony from people who had worked for Fay and seeing video of the conditions in which the animals were kept, Greenhalgh concluded the animals had been abused.
"The conditions in which these dogs were kept constitutes cruelty" he wrote in his Dec. 11 ruling. "Their cages and living areas were covered with an accumulation of feces and urine days or weeks old. The dogs had to walk in and lay down in the waste covering the floor."
Fay housed the dogs in the garage, basement and first floor of a large home on 57 acres. Fay told the court she wasn't out to make a profit and she compared her efforts to "an artistic endeavor of promoting what she believes is a beautiful and unique breed of dogs," according to the order.
Greenhalgh noted that Fay appears to have been devoted to her dogs, but she started having difficulty in April, when she suffered a knee injury and couldn't easily move about. She also lost workers and was unable to replace them.