NH Great Dane Trial: Behind the Smokescreen of Defendant's Adequate Medical Care Claims
The Wolfeboro Great Danes have undoubtedly found a place in the hearts of many NH residents, and as court proceedings continue, we cannot help but become engrossed in the case. On October 20th, the Defense made many claims regarding the medical care of the Great Danes while in the custody of the Defendant, a few of which Straight Twist has taken a closer look at below.
Claim: An Abundance Of Medical Records 'Proves' Adequate Care
The defense asserts the Defendant's 'overabundance' of medical records for the dogs contradicts neglect. Dr. Samantha Moffitt, a veterinarian who confirmed she was paid over $2,500 by the Defense to testify as an 'expert' on their behalf stated, "I was actually blown away by the amount of medical records..." and "This owner has done more than what's adequate in my book."
Facts: It's Not Always Quantity That Matters
One might have an abundance of dollar bills, but the difference lies in what type of bills they are. I'd certainly prefer ten $100 bills than ten $1 bills. The same applies to medical records; what they're regarding is more significant than how many of them you have.
As forensic veterinarian Jerilee Zezula testified on the same day, Moffitt did not mention the fact that an overwhelming majority of the Defendant's medical records were for breeding purposes. For example, Dr. Zezula read aloud in court the following stack of records entered into evidence by the Defense for one of the Great Danes named Harazah:
Jan 28 2016: 2 Semen Collections
Jan 28 2016: Blood Chemistry(1)
Feb 2016: Semen Collection
Feb 22 2016: Semen Collection
Feb 24 2016: Semen Collection
Apr 2016: Semen Collection
Apr 20 2016: Tail Amputation(2) & Gastropexy
May 2016: Semen Collection
May 2016: Semen Collection
June 14 2016: Semen Collection
June 29 2016: Semen Collection
Dec 13 2016: Semen Collection
Jan 2017: Semen Collection
Feb 2017: Semen Collection
Apr 2017: Semen Collection
May 1 2017: Semen Collection
May 10 2017: Semen Collection & Test For Brucolocous (Blood test often routinely done on dogs used for breeding)
May 12 2017: Semen Collection
As stated by Dr. Zezula while reading the records in court, there were blood chemistry tests done for Harazha because, "There were concerns about him perhaps spreading a disease; they were checking for Mycoplasma."
Dog owners usually don't suddenly wake up one morning worried that their dog is spreading a disease. Dogs must first show symptoms, which then lead to those concerns.
Mycoplasma is a parasitic, bacterial microorganism which causes Mycoplasmosis, a bacterial disease that can spread through breeding and is associated with infertility, respiratory infections, pneumonia, lameness, fever, redness of the eyes and conjunctivitis. Based on the reading of his medical records, the primary concern was that Harazha might be spreading Mycoplasma through breeding, but not any of the symptoms he was suffering from.
(Photo Above Right: One of the slightly less disturbing photographs of Harazah shown in court on October 20, 2016)
Multiple Ailments Not Addressed - Defendant's Vet Refuses To Testify
According to the complaint filed by the state, Harazah (aka I1-05) was found in a kennel, in the dark and poorly ventilated mansion basement during the seizure on June 16th. He had "multiple pressure sores on his legs, papilloma lesions, ulcerated, thickened and oozing lesions throughout his body, ear infections, conjunctivitis, and entropion." Veterinarian Dr. Kramer, who conducted field exams during the seizure, confirmed the above while providing testimony on October 18th, and additionally noted that Harazah was also underweight and it was apparent he was suffering.
If the Defendant provided an overabundance of care, why was Harazah found living under those conditions, suffering from those ailments? It's unsurprising that Dr. Kate Battenfelder (True North Veterinary Hospital), Fay's primary veterinarian for the dogs, who allegedly signed some health certificates without any notations of their medical issues, filed a motion to quash her subpoena (nullify the request for her to testify). That motion was granted on October 24th by presiding Judge Greenhalgh for both Battenfelder and her vet technician, Stephanie Macomber, to prevent self-incrimination.
Demand For One-Worded Answers
During cross-examination, Defense Attorney, Barker teeter-tottered on the line of badgering Dr. Zezula, trying to make her answer a simple yes or no to his questions. Although he apparently attempted to force her into answering the way he wanted her to, he couldn't prevent Zezula from saying exactly what her expert conclusion was regarding those records, which was that they do not confirm the Defendant was adequately caring for her dogs.
Claim: Defendant Went Above and Beyond With Expensive Surgeries and Tests
Dr. Moffitt testified that the medical records showing surgeries, such as for tail injuries, and blood culture tests, conducted to determine appropriate antibiotic treatments for the dogs, proved the Defendant went 'above and beyond.'
(2) Facts: Above and Beyond - In A Breeding Ground For Bacteria
Amputations are sometimes done in severe cases of kennel tail (aka happy tail), caused when dogs hit their tails against walls or kennels so hard it breaks and bleeds. The Defendant did take some of the dogs to the vet to address such injuries, such as the tail amputation shown for Harazah above, on April 20th, 2016.
However, according to testimony and submitted evidence, rather than provide a larger space to help prevent further hitting of the tail, leading to and following the surgery, the dogs were kept in relatively small kennels within the mansion, and let out for 15 minutes or less per day. Following surgeries or treatments, dogs were kept among others with contagious diseases and layers of feces, such as the kennel in the basement where Harazah was found.
A location of which one of the witnesses fittingly referred to as, "A perfect breeding ground for bacteria." Is that an appropriate environment for a dog recovering with an open wound from surgery?
The same question can be asked for the other dogs that the Defense claims were receiving antibiotic treatments following those costly blood culture tests, tests that likely could’ve been prevented if the dogs were properly cared for and living in a sanitary environment to begin with. Furthermore, Marilyn Kelly, who was employed by the Defendant, testified on October 16th that based on what she witnessed in the house, it appeared that the dogs were not property given their medications. And even if administered correctly, how could anyone expect antibiotic treatment to be successful in a room full of feces, bacteria, and disease? Would a responsible breeder continue to breed dogs suffering from disease and living under such circumstances? And would forcing even a healthy dog to live in that type of environment be considered 'adequate care'? Frankly, it doesn't take much deliberation to address those questions thoroughly, with the firm and simple one-worded answer - no.