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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Day 1 of NH Great Dane Trial Hits Home

"I'm thirsty."

A thought that came to my mind several times while I sat in the courtroom yesterday for day one of the Wolfeboro, NH Great Dane Trial; State v. Christina Fay.

The 3rd Circuit Courthouse in Ossipee, NH has a strict rule prohibiting food and water by visitors. A rule I've recently begun to wish didn't exist. While I sat there on the hard courtroom bench without water, three witnesses testified, and Annie-Rose was the first to take the stand.

1. Annie-Rose Newell

Annie-Rose, a recently turned 17-year-old with farm experience, intelligently and collectedly described her first day working at Christina Fay's residence on May 2nd. She was hired to help with the cleaning of the property and care of the dogs. When referring to the house, she stated, "The appalling conditions inside shocked me."

She stated there were layers of feces, urine, raw chicken parts and chicken juice oozing down the kitchen counters, and referred to the strong rancid smell throughout the entire property stating, "It immediately just hits you in the face" ... "You could not escape the smell."

"They used to bury the dogs, but don't do that anymore."

When asked to remove about 30 trash bags from the garage, she was advised by Julia Smith (another employee of Fay's) that there was, "A dead puppy in the trash," and that "They used to bury the dogs, but don't do that anymore."

She testified that she was also advised by Julia that the "Dogs only receive water when they go outside" and that a group of the dogs, "Were not let out the day before."

She was invited to join Fay for lunch, who was eating in that same house, but declined and went to her car, adding, "I could not eat anything that day." Annie-Rose referenced Fay's reaction to the condition of the home and the dogs, stating, "She did not appear to be bothered by that."

Annie-Rose, however, was deeply bothered. She bravely returned to work after her break and began taking pictures of the property, which she noted was with permission. After leaving for the day, she never returned.

Instead, she gave a statement and showed the pictures to Officer Strauch of the Wolfeboro Police Department(WPD) and 10 of those pictures were officially entered as evidence.

Defense’s Degrading Cross Examination of Annie-Rose

When Defense Attorney, James Cowels cross-examined Annie-Rose he appeared to be rather degrading, asking her about her religious beliefs and if the vocabulary she used while testifying was recently learned when studying for the SATs. Although Annie-Rose used the word 'feces' while testifying, Cowels repeatedly referred to it as 'poop' and also referred to 'Looney Tunes' cartoons. It was apparent his actions were not appreciated; however, Annie-Rose remained well composed and articulate.

As the proceedings continued, the relatively small courtroom full of people grew increasingly stuffy, which was emphasized by my longsleeved suit jacket. As I envisioned the moment in which I'd be able to take off my jacket and drink some cool water, I looked down and saw a small water bottle on the floor.

The woman sitting next to me was pregnant and made a special agreement with the bailiff, allowing her to bring water into the courthouse. I watched her drink the water with envy, and it made my throat itch. Next to take the stand was Marilyn Kelly.

2. Marilyn Kelly

Marilyn Kelly, a vet tech with 25 years experience, was employed by Fay for five weeks after discovering Fay's job post on 'Indeed.' Marilyn confirmed she previously worked with the Conway Area Humane Society but has no connection to the Humane Society of the United States.

Water often came from a puddle which the dogs would run to as soon as they were let outside.

Marilyn echoed Annie-Rose's testimony regarding the unsanitary conditions of the house, adding that it also appeared the dogs were not properly given their prescription medication and that she advised Fay that the situation there was "out of control." She witnessed multiple wounds on the dogs, one of which she saw Fay staple closed. Marilyn also testified to the lack of the water that the dogs would receive, often coming from a puddle, which the dogs would immediately run to as soon as they were let outside, at a max of once per day.

She urged Fay to re-home the dogs and even went to Fay's veterinarian, Kate Battenfelder of True North Veterinary Hospital and "Begged in tears for help," which she did not receive. Stating instead, "They waited until I left, called Ms. Fay and told her everything I had said..." After realizing there was no other way to help the dogs, Marilyn reached out to the Conway Area Humane Society and the WPD.

During the trial, someone sitting close by offered me a mint saying, "It's hard to go without the water." To which I agreed. I considered leaving the warm room and going to the water fountain down the hall, but it would cause a bit of a disruption, and I could potentially lose my seat, so I decided to stay put and listen to Officer Strauch, who was testifying.

3. Officer Strauch

A Wolfeboro Police Officer, reiterated much of his testimony from the pre-trial motion hearing on Oct. 3rd, noting the horrendous conditions of the property and the apparent ailments and injuries of the dogs. He added that there was no water inside and that the outdoor water bowls were full of green algae. He described the basement, where many dogs were kept in kennels, was dark, stuffy and even hotter than the rest of the house. When arresting Fay, she unpromptedly stated to him, "I'm sorry, I know this looks bad."

My thirst had intensified throughout the testimony, and when court adjourned for the day, that water fountain was my first destination plan.

And at that moment it hit me.

I thought about the Great Danes in that grotesque mansion as described by all three witnesses. I thought of those animals sick with multiple illnesses and open wounds, waiting for someone to give them water while their throats burned with dryness.

I was in the courtroom for approximately 3.5 hours. Both Annie and Marilyn testified that while in custody of the Defendant, the Great Danes were without water for several hours every day and sometimes for over 24 hours. As I opened the doors to exit the courtroom, I thought about the Defendant's employees opening the mansion door and the dogs running outside, immediately going to a puddle on the ground to drink dirty water in desperation for the relief of their thirst.

As I felt the cool water from the fountain moisten my dry mouth and throat, my relief was flooded with sadness from the thoughts of what those dogs went through. The Wolfeboro Great Danes, they didn't have the choice to leave the filthy and stifling rooms full of stale ammonia-filled air, as the witnesses stated made their eyes tear; they were deprived of that. The Great Danes didn't have a way to open the mansion door, so they could feel the sun, breathe the fresh air, or have access to potable water; they were deprived of that. They didn't have a person they could make a special agreement with if they were pregnant and needed to drink enough water for themselves and their unborn pup they instinctively had the will to protect; they were deprived of that.

The defense may attempt to twist the words of the Prosecution's witnesses and stab holes in the facts, as they did yesterday, but putting aside the Defense's desperate diversionary tactics, there is an underlying truth here that cannot be ignored.

According to the testimony, those Great Danes were deprived proper healthcare, adequate air circulation, and potable drinking water, which does not simply cause minor discomfort but are fundamental necessities of sustenance and survival. Not only is that considered unlawful according to NH law, but it is undeniably and dishearteningly cruel.

When I walked outside the courthouse, the sunlight was bright and welcoming. I breathed in the fresh air, and as I removed my stuffy jacket, I felt the perfect breeze cool me down, and I was thankful. When I got home, I hugged my dog who welcomed me, and even though her bowl had recently been filled, I rinsed it out and replenished it with fresh water anyway.

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