The verdict is in -- and it’s a good one -- for the future of dozens of Great Danes who have spent a year in legal limbo since their dramatic rescue from a New Hampshire breeder’s mansion last June. A judge yesterday ruled that the dogs can now be placed for adoption, and that the breeder who kept them in filthy conditions should pay restitution for the costs of caring for them for the past year.
This is a remarkable victory for the dogs who have been living at a temporary shelter that the Humane Society of the United States has built and maintained since they were rescued a year ago. Our priority has always been to ensure that the dogs be placed into suitable and loving homes and we are thrilled that they will now get that chance.
The judge awarded full restitution to the town of Wolfeboro and to the Humane Society of the United States, which has spent nearly $2 million to date in caring for the dogs, at an emergency shelter we constructed especially for them. However, the defendant has said she plans to appeal that part of the decision.
We owe a great debt of thanks to all of our followers and donors whose volunteer time and financial generosity has helped us meet the immense burden of caring for the dogs. This has been an expensive undertaking with costs incurred for constructing and maintaining a temporary animal shelter, staffing it with experienced consultants with professional training as animal care experts in shelter management, behavioral health and wellness, etc., bringing in Animal Rescue Team volunteers for daily support, and providing extensive veterinary care to the dogs.
We balanced the cost of the case with a strategy of effectively and efficiently using volunteers, in-kind contributions, and careful expenditure in the interests of maintaining an exceptional standard of care through a long term holding situation where every dog was provided with an individual plan, attention and expert veterinary treatment. Due to the dogs’ size and conditions associated with their breeding, it has been a Herculean task to provide appropriate diets, medical care, and exercise and enrichment appropriate for their ongoing mental and physical well-being.
This long-running saga began to unfold almost exactly a year ago, when we assisted in the rescue of the Great Danes, some sick, living in filthy conditions inside a mansion in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. When members of our Animal Rescue Team and volunteers from the Pope Memorial SPCA and Conway Area Humane Society entered the opulent mansion alongside officials of the Wolfeboro Police Department, which had requested our assistance, they encountered an overpowering smell in the house, and feces and debris were smeared across all the walls to the point where the windows were opaque.
In March, a jury convicted the defendant of 17 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, including depriving the dogs of necessary access to water. Many of the dogs were ill and in distress when we found them, and suffered from an array of health problems, including severe eye issues and symptoms associated with communicable illnesses.
In May, Judge Amy Ignatius sentenced the breeder, Christina Fay, to jail time, and admonished her for not showing any “signs of remorse” for what she did to the animals in her care. The judge was unequivocal at the May hearing, saying, “We take these crimes seriously and [cruelty] is not to be tolerated.”
At yesterday’s ruling, Judge Ignatius agreed to suspend jail time as long as the defendant attends counseling with a therapist who will report to the court.
When Judge Ignatius issued her forfeiture order from the bench allowing rehoming for the dogs to begin immediately, she expressed her concerns for the dogs’ best interests saying, “My hope is that it happens very quickly. I wish it had happened months ago.” A sentiment that we could not agree with more.
Many of you have expressed interest in adopting these dogs, and we will keep you updated as we begin to work with our Emergency Placement Partners to place the dogs in their forever homes.
A huge kudos to our teams at the Humane Society of the United States that helped in the rescue of these animals, assisted the prosecution in bringing the breeder to justice, and worked to care for these animals for the past year.
We believe all of this cruelty could have been alleviated much sooner if New Hampshire had stronger regulations for commercial dog breeders, and we remain committed to strengthening the laws to ensure taxpayers and non-profits are not carrying the financial burden to care for animals seized in animal cruelty cases.
Even as we celebrate this victory for the Great Danes today, let’s keep our eye focused on finding solutions for the future. New Hampshire lawmakers and Gov. Chris Sununu are committed to strengthening cost of care laws and reforming commercial breeder regulations in the state, and we will work with them to address these issues so animals never again have to suffer in substandard commercial breeder operations.