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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Great Dane Case - What We Learned and How to Prevent it From Happening Again

We can only begin to imagine what it was like for the police department and rescue team when they opened the doors to the defiled Wolfeboro mansion full of 84 neglected Great Danes, on the morning of June 16th.

The pungent odor of ammonia filled the air, there was raw chicken on the floor, piles of feces, and no potable water to be seen, according to rescue footage. Suffering animals huddled in the filth smeared corners of the mansion, some very thin, several with infections, and all unsure of what abuse they would be facing next. With the case still pending, there are sure to be even more daunting facts that have yet come to light.

In online sales advertisements the animals appeared deceptively healthy, and on the outside, the mansion seemed orderly; on the inside, it was a house of horror. Those making purchases were unaware that they were directly funding heart-wrenching abuse and neglect.

We’re Asking The Wrong Question

Many are now asking, 'How did this happen?' The problem is, that is the wrong question. NH residents seem utterly shocked that such cruelty could occur. But the unfortunate truth is, although NH has yet to see a case of this magnitude, animal cruelty like this does exist; it's dark, it's horrific, and it happens every day.

For years animal welfare organizations and investigations have shed light on the unimaginable neglect and abuse that occurs behind closed doors at commercial breeding facilities and pet stores, with over 250 localities banning the retail sale of commercially raised dogs and cats as a result. It is nearly impossible not to look away while watching footage from one of the latest animal abuse investigations released last month. It has become quite clear that these types of cruelties exist, and the Great Danes from Wolfeboro taught us that it is not just in other states, but in New Hampshire as well.

So when we consider the disheartening fact that not only does animal cruelty often occur, but that it takes place in our state, that question of how this happened shifts to, 'How do we prevent this from happening?' And that my friends, is the right question - of which there are many answers and below are a few.

Commercial Breeder Definition

According to current NH law, for someone to be considered a 'Commercial Breeder/Kennel' and require regulation by the state, they must sell 10 litters of puppies or 50 puppies in one year. Not only is that difficult to enforce, but it is a very high threshold, especially when compared to Vermont's requirement of 3 litters of puppies a year. Redefining what is considered a NH 'Commercial Breeder' in a way that is easier to enforce, while also lowering that bar, will allow for stronger breeder regulations by the state.

Great Dane in kennel owned by unlicensed breeder, Wolfeboro, NH / Meredith Lee, The HSUS


As the Great Dane case confirmed, regardless of what those selling animals may present to us, we have no way of fully knowing what goes on behind closed doors unless the facility is inspected.Unfortunately, laws requiring mandatory inspections of those with a license to transfer or breed animals in NH were greatly weakened, and the law requiring that an inspection is conducted prior to granting such license, was completely removed from state law this year (footnote 4). We must, at the very least, get those requirements put back into place.

Cost of Care Law

Currently, it falls on the State to cover expenses to care for the animals that are legally seized and kept as evidence while animal cruelty cases are being prosecuted. Local shelters may attempt to assist in those expenses, but more often than not, they just don’t have the funds to do so. This leaves the financial burden to the State of New Hampshire; thus, tax paying residents. These expenses can add up to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars per year. A ‘Cost of Care Law’ would relieve law-abiding NH residents of that burden, and require that the individuals charged with the cruelty of those animals cover the expenses.

Health Certificates and Veterinarian Animal Cruelty Reporting

According to the Concord Monitor, Dr. Kate Battenfelder of Bartlett, reportedly gave ‘high marks’ to some of the Wolfeboro Danes regarding their physical condition. However, court documents show those same dogs were found to be suffering from contagious diseases. It is evident that NH must have stronger laws requiring those who breed animals obtain proper health certificates, that veterinarians are held accountable for such documentation, and that veterinarians report signs of animal cruelty to the proper authorities.

Punishment That Fits The Crime

Many residents have expressed their aversion that animal cruelties, such as those in the Great Dane case, are considered only a misdemeanor offense. New Hampshire is in dire need of strengthening and enhancing animal cruelty laws so that egregious acts of cruelty are considered a felony. This will allow for sentences that better fit the crime; helping to prevent other criminals from committing such horrific acts in the first place, but also serving justice when they do.

Not An Attack On All Breeders

Although StraightTwist strongly supports adoption over purchasing, there are ways to distinguish which breeders are and are not reputable. And reputable breeders should welcome stronger animal welfare measures if the well-being of their animals is a top priority, and they have nothing to hide.

The Future

As for the 84 beloved Great Danes, with the help of the HSUS, Wolfeboro Police and many others*, they're currently receiving medical attention and lots of loving care. Their future is now resting in the hands of Presiding Judge Greenhalgh, of the 3rd Circuit Court in Ossipee. The Great Danes may never know that they've paved the way for the potential good of other animals, but NH residents certainly will. It's time to unite, to ensure what those animals endured was not in vain, and to do all we must to prevent such abuse from occurring in our state again.

1. Attend Governor Sununu’s Announcement

Governor Chris Sununu will officially be announcing his acknowledgment of the animal cruelty issues we face in NH and his support of strong legislative solutions, of which Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has also expressed her support.

Date: Thurs., August 17th

Location: Wolfeboro Police Department 251 S Main Street,

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire 03894

Time: 5pm

2. Support Upcoming Legislature

A big thank you to Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), who has agreed to take a stand on behalf of animal welfare in NH and will be sponsoring vital legislation and preventative measures, such as those discussed above.

StraightTwist will keep you up to date with bill numbers, simply explained language details and ways you can provide support.

3. Attend The Great Dane Trial; State v. Christina Fay

Date: Wed., October 25th

Location: NH 3rd Circuit Court, Carroll County Courthouse 96 Water Village Road

Ossipee, NH 03864

Time: TBA (According to the case summary obtained from NH Trial Court, the trial is scheduled for 9am and 1pm. The court has yet to confirm which time slot is accurate.)

4. Spread The Word

Share this post with your family and friends to spread awareness of NH animal cruelty and the up and coming potential solutions.

*Special Thank You To:

The Humane Society of the United States - New Hampshire, Wolfeboro Police Department, Barnstead Police Department, Conway Area Humane Society, Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Stewart’s Ambulance, Wolfeboro Fire Department and Wolfeboro Health Officer/Code Enforcement, who assisted in the rescue.

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Straight Twist, Logo, Animal Welfare


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