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  • Gina Scrofano

NH Great Dane Trial: Sentence Hearing Explained



It has been a long six months and six days since over 80 Great Danes were seized from Christina Fay and removed from deplorable conditions at her Wolfeboro mansion.


After three hearings and six days of trial, it was on the first day of Winter, Thursday, December 21st, that Fay faced sentencing from presiding Judge Charles L. Greenhalgh, of the 3rd Circuit Court, District Division.


Christina Fay was sentenced to the following:


1. 12 Month Suspended Jail Sentence (per charge/concurrent)

2. Restitution Totaling $791,720.51

3. Possession of 1 Dog (spayed/neutered)

4. Lost Ownership/Custody of All Remaining Dogs

5. Ban From Ownership of More Than One Animal, of Any Kind, for the Rest of Her Life.


1. 12 Month Suspended Jail Sentence (per charge/concurrent)

Christina Fay was found guilty of 10 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. Her sentence includes a conditionally suspended 12-month jail sentence for each of those charges, which will be served concurrently; meaning, simultaneously. Basically, a ten-year jail sentence for animal cruelty on Fay's public record, but served over one year, conditionally suspended.


A conditionally suspended jail sentence is a sentence in which the time served is not served in jail, as the judge agrees to withhold execution of the jail time. However, the 'suspension' is conditional upon the Defendant's compliance with all the other terms of her sentencing (as numbered in this article), as well as 'good behavior' during that year.


If good behavior is not demonstrated during that year, the judge would have authority to retract the suspension, requiring that the jail sentence is served.


2. Restitution Totaling $791,720.51

The sentencing requires that Fay financially compensate the following parties based on expenses incurred as a result of the case and care of the Great Danes:


Pope Memorial SPCA $1,497.11

Town of Wolfeboro $16,335.77

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) $773,887.63


3. Possession of 1 Dog (spayed/neutered)

The sentencing allows Christina Fay to choose one of the Great Danes to be returned to her, under the condition that the dog is spayed/neutered.


4. Lost Custody/Ownership of All Remaining Dogs

Except the one dog to be returned to Fay, the sentence strips her of ownership and grants the state full custody of all the Great Danes, with the specific intent to allow the dogs to be adopted into suitable homes through HSUS Emergency Placement Partners (EPP).


EPP's are qualified shelters, rescue groups and humane organizations that work with the HSUS regarding large numbers of animals seized in cruelty cases; providing veterinary care and rehabilitation for the animals, with the ultimate goal of their placement into lifelong homes.


5. Ban From Ownership of More Than One Animal, of Any Kind, for the Rest of Her Life.

Judge Greenhalgh's sentencing is not necessarily a lenient one in this regard. Those words, 'for the rest of her life' carry considerable weight and is potentially one of the strongest in NH history regarding the length of time a Defendant in an animal cruelty case has been prohibited from owning more than one animal.


No Jail Time Served - Additional Insight

Many believe that Fay's sentence should include served jail time, and understandably so. Unfortunately, current NH law limits the State to misdemeanor charges for first offense animal cruelties, such as those in this case. That leaves it in the hands of the presiding judge to determine whether or not jail time is appropriate.


On Thursday, Judge Greenhalgh stated, "I'm not going to put Ms. Fay in jail; I don't think she belongs there."


2018 NH Legislation Could Increase Animal Cruelty Jail Sentences

NH Senator Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), has introduced legislation for the 2018 season, which would make acts of cruelty resulting in serious bodily injury or death of a domestic animal, a Class B Felony. NH class B Felony-level charges are punishable by a minimum jail sentence of 3 and 1/2 years.


More details on that legislation and how you can support it soon to follow. In the meantime, you may click here for additional insight on how we could strengthen NH animal cruelty laws.


Christina Fay Files An Appeal

Following the sentencing, the Defense filed an appeal, requesting a trial de novo, in the superior court. Trial de novo; meaning, a 'new trial' (aka start from scratch). Thursday's sentencing is now 'put on hold,' and the superior court conducts a trial as if the district court trial had never been held. I use the phrase 'put on hold', as Christina Fay has the option to withdraw her appeal, in which case Judge Greenhalgh's district court sentencing will stand.


A judge found Christina Fay guilty for what she has done - That truth will forever be in history.

So The Guilty Verdict and Above Sentencing Don't Matter?

Not necessarily. Firstly, if Christina Fay withdraws her appeal, it is important to understand the district court sentence that will be implemented.


Secondly, although a superior court ruling would supersede yesterday's sentence, that does not change the reality of it. The story of those Great Danes was told in a court of law and in a battle against the individual responsible for committing atrocious cruelties against them, and they won. After considering the evidence, a district court judge found Christina Fay guilty for what she has done and deemed unfit to care for 79 of those dogs. Although the appeal presents another battle ahead, that truth will forever be in history. Numerous individuals fought tirelessly for that, as did the Great Danes, and having that history may not mean something to everyone, but it means something to them.


New Appeal Trial Comes With New Bail Order

Because an appeal has been filed, Christina Fay must pay bail to retain ownership of the Great Danes while the new trial is pending/being prosecuted. That bail is set at $2,000/per dog. Her ownership does not mean custody. The Great Danes will remain in the custody of the state of NH, thus in the care of the HSUS at the same shelter they've been residing since the seizure in June. If she does not pay the bail, the dogs will be considered surrendered, and ownership will be granted to the state of NH, allowing the HSUS to work with EPP's and begin the adoption process.


Judge Grants Fay Custody of One Dog Despite Appeal

Although the district court's sentence will not be implemented at this time (due to the appeal), the Defense requested that the bail order (described above) is amended, allowing Christina Fay possession of the one Great Dane that was part of the district court sentencing (number 3). Judge Greenhalgh granted that request, allowing one dog of Fay's choice (spayed/neutered) to be returned to her before this Christmas.


This is seen as an undeserving and unjustifiable reward to Fay. It is utterly unacceptable to allow a Defendant the right to pick and choose which terms of their sentence to accept and not to accept. If Christina Fay wants to regain custody of one dog as allowed as part of her sentence, she should have to accept the sentence in full. This is seen as an undeserving and unjustifiable reward to Fay, after she has been found guilty of 10 counts of animal cruelty and has chosen to file an appeal, refusing her sentence, and further preventing the Great Danes from being adopted into loving homes.


Defense Reattempts To Rehome The Dogs To Fay's Family and Friends

In a last ditch effort to keep the Great Danes within the Defendant's oppressive grip, the Defense filed a motion to amend the bail order and confiscation of the dogs.


The Defense’s bold statement that the dogs are sentient beings and do not deserve to live their lives in a shelter reeked of hypocrisy.


Fay brought up that puppies are growing up in kennels and stated, "...at my home they'd be playing in the fields every day and sleeping on couches and beds." She went as far as to state that living at the shelter was "unacceptable and horrific." The Defense requested that nine of the Great Danes are returned to Fay and that the remaining dogs are given to individuals of Fay's choosing.


That individual stated she planned to begin breeding in February 2018.

The Facts

In the State's sentencing memorandum, the Prosecution notes that the individuals who Christina Fay has chosen to give the Great Danes to, include family and friends.


One of the individuals, who is a close personal friend of Fay's and who Fay requested receive 11 of the Great Danes, posted a logo on August 24, 2017, for a breeding operation under the name, "Hillsborough Great Danes." That individual stated she planned to begin breeding in February 2018.


Another individual on the Defendant's list to receive custody of five of the Great Danes is Fay's daughter, whose husband is also believed to be involved in the breeding and selling of Great Danes.


Not only would granting the Defense's motion to rehome the Great Danes provide the Defendant, who has been found guilty of animal cruelty, continued access to the dogs, but also the potential for an extended profit for breeding.


Following the hearing, Lindsay Hamrick, NH state director for the HSUS commented on the judge's ruling stating, "A lot of the points were around testimony that these animals were living in deplorable conditions and they didn't have access to water on a regular basis. Ms. Fay today mentioned that she'd like some of her dogs to be able to curl up on a soft bed and be comfortable when there were photos of a bed covered in feces."


A perfect point. The HSUS created the emergency shelter specifically to provide the Great Danes with a safe and sanitary environment where they receive care from qualified individuals, under the guidance of veterinary professionals. As Fay described the HSUS shelter as "horrific," thoughts of the substantial evidence revealing the abhorrent conditions the dogs where living in while in her custody was unavoidable.


And her claims that the dogs would be "playing in the fields every day," is blatantly contradictory to trial evidence proving that the dogs were not let outside their kennels nor given water for more than 15 minutes per day, and sometimes not for over 24 hours.


Someone who’s been convicted of animal cruelty should not have say in where the animals go.

Hamrick followed up that point with another stating, "And so I think certainly the one piece that we do agree on is that these dogs should be in homes. What we adamantly disagree about is that somebody who's been convicted of animal cruelty should have any say about where they go."


Rightfully, Judge Greenhalgh agreed, because he denied the Defense’s motion and did not grant the Defendant custody of the nine additional Great Danes, nor the request to allow Fay to determine ownership of the dogs (with the exception of the one dog granted to Fay).


Moving Forward

As long as this trial may have seemed to us, it certainly could never compare to how life has been for those Great Danes. And although they're now receiving exceptional care, it still cannot compare to living with a family in a forever home.


If Christina Fay truly cares for those Great Danes as much as she claims, she would withdraw her appeal and allow them to move on from the abuse she has caused them, and start new lives in homes where they will be cherished.


If Fay's shellfish and distorted priorities prevent her from withdrawing the appeal, we can only hope that the new superior court trial will be scheduled as soon as possible and that those animals will finally be on a path towards adoption.


As of today, we can celebrate that although appealed, the Great Danes’ still won their first battle in court with the Judge’s guilty ruling. And as they await the second battle, those caring for the dogs at the HSUS shelter will do all they can to ensure those amazing animals feel the warmth of the compassion and love they deserve through this holiday season, and for as long as the appeal process takes.


(Image: Christina Fay, Sentence Hearing, Dec. 21, 2017/Gina Scrofano, Straight Twist)



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