Accusations Made By Christina Fay’s Legal Team
A hearing was held Wednesday at the request of Christina Fay's legal team, who filed an injunction seeking to regain control of over 80 Great Danes taken out of her custody when charged with animal cruelty on June 16th. During the ex parte, several statements were made by Fay's legal counsel which many may consider controversial. For the sake of determining fact from fiction, StraightTwist addressed many of those statements below.
1. Constitutional Rights Regarding Property Ownership
Statement: Co-counselors, Attorney Kent Barker, and Attorney James Cowles represented Fay, noting that the animals were constitutionally her property, explaining the basis to file the injunction.
Facts: It is true that according to NH law, domestic animals are considered the property of their owners. However, in this case, Fay's property (the Great Danes), are also considered evidence, and a judge won't necessarily return such evidence to the defendant while a case is pending.
2. Sentient Beings
Statement: Attorney Barker pointed out these are not inanimate objects we're discussing, and the injunction requests that Fay have access to see how the dogs are doing.
Facts: We couldn't agree more that the Great Danes are living, breathing, beings that can suffer physically and psychologically. But considering Fay was arrested for cruelty of those animals, claiming that the defendant is deeply concerned about their well-being is rather contradictive.
3. Eye Surgeries
Statement: The injunction also specifically requests no future surgeries for the dogs. Barker noted that operations, represented as emergencies to address their condition known as 'cherry eye,' were performed on some dogs after the seizure without the defendant's assent.
Also, Barker commented on Fay's "unique knowledge of European Great Danes and cherry eye," as she is a "vet tech herself" and "only in more serious cases is it something that can lead to blindness and require surgery."
Facts: The Humane Society of the United States confirmed that some of the Great Danes are in need of eye surgery. However, it was not confirmed if or how many dogs received such surgery. Also, according to the law, for those procedures to be done without the owners consent, a judge would have to grant authority based on a qualified veterinarian’s documentation proving it was necessary. (Photo to the right: One of the Great Danes seized from Fay on June 6th, suffering from 'cherry eye'. / Meredith Lee, The HSUS)
4. Bloat Risk
Statement: Additionally, Barker stated, “European Great Danes, they suffer conditions such as bloat where their stomach can turn if they're given too much water or too much food."
Facts: Based on evidence released so far, "There was no sign of available water," and maggot-infested raw chicken was found on the property where the dogs were living. If that is the defendant's uniquely informed way of preventing bloat, some research into where she received her vet technician training is highly recommended.
5. Unconfirmed Allegations Regarding The Death Of Two Dogs(1)
Statement: Attorney Barker stated that two dogs allegedly died following the seizure.
Facts: Lindsay Hamrick, the NH State Director of the HSUS, was unable to comment on specifics regarding those claims as the criminal case is ongoing. However, Hamrick did state, "We just want to reassure the public that these animals are being cared for every single day by our expert animal rescue team and under the guidance of veterinary professionals."
It is important to remember that we do not have all the facts of the case, which will come to light in time. However, it would be sensible to acknowledge that any difficult decisions made by veterinarians regarding the care of the Great Danes after the seizure are a direct result of the cruelty and neglect they endured while living in the defendant's custody.
6. Puppies At Governor Sununu's Event
Statement: Barker stated, "There was a press conference held with the governor a couple of weeks ago were one of my client's dog's was on display as part of a petting zoo were there was money being raised on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States."
Facts: Governor Sununu's event on August 17th, was not to raise funds, but for his announcement in support of stronger animal cruelty preventative measures in NH.
A photograph of one of the well-known Great Danes was at the event, however, none of Fay’s dogs were physically present. As confirmed by the Wolfeboro Police Department and the HSUS, a separate group of dogs was surrendered by Christina Fay, before the seizure of the 84 dogs on June 16th. Among that surrendered group, was a pregnant female who gave birth to three puppies while in the care of the Conway Area Humane Society. Those puppies were safely brought to the Governor's event. Christina Fay does not own those particular animals, and even if the Superior Court granted her injunction, they would not be considered part of that motion nor returned to her.
(Photo Above: HSUS NH State Director, Lindsay Hamrick and Gov. Sununu, with Great Dane puppy 'Duke' on August 17th/Holly Ramer, The Associated Press)
7. DA's Continuance
Statement: Fay's counsel made it a point to express it has been over two months since Fay has had access to the dogs.
Facts: The defense highly impacted the extended length of time that the animals have been out of the defendant's custody. Attorney Cowles filed for a continuance which stated, "Defendant's counsel will be on vacation, and not in New Hampshire, from Aug. 18 to Aug. 28.", causing the trial to be pushed from August to October.
Prosecutor Simon Brown did not disclose details of the case against Fay and did not comment on the DA's accusations. He simply pointed out the fact that the animals were seized pursuant to a search warrant and are considered evidence in the pending criminal case in the District Court. He stated the Superior Court lacks jurisdiction and requested a dismissal of the injunction.
Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius agreed with Brown, however also agreed to put the order to dismiss the injunction on hold until the pretrial conference comes to a close on September 6th. Fay's attorneys noted they would file a similar motion to the injunction with the District Court, as well as a request to relocate the animals to a caregiver of Fay's choice. Following the District Court's decision on that motion, the Superior Court will then make a final ruling on the injunction.
The Bottom Line
All in all the DA's statements in court on Wednesday came across as a futile attempt to bait the prosecution, stir up controversy and save face by making Fay appear to be a victim in this. However, it wouldn't be surprising if many NH residents are just not buying it. The fact of the matter is, there was enough evidence to obtain a warrant, press charges against the defendant, and to remove the animals from her custody due to the horrendous conditions in which the animals were living. We all know who the victims are in this case, there are over 80 of them, and they're currently receiving veterinary care, daily behavioral enrichment, and the nourishment they need by qualified individuals at an emergency shelter. To turn around and put those animals in jeopardy by allowing the accused to determine their care would be irresponsible and unjustifiable at this time. Moving forward, we can only hope that the Circuit Court agrees with that perspective, for the sake of NH's beloved Great Danes.
NH Great Dane Case: What We Learned And How To Prevent It From Happening Again
(1)Update September 3, 2017: On August 31st The Humane Society of the United States - New Hampshire posted the following reply to an inquiry regarding the death of two dogs on their Facebook page, “Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we cannot comment on the specifics regarding the dogs in our care, however,...there were two puppies who, despite 24 hour supervision and all efforts being exhausted to treat them, were humanely euthanized after it was determined they were suffering from an untreatable condition. Our team is, and always does, work under the guidance and direction of veterinary professionals in determining all animal care and medical decisions.”