Court rejects appeal of woman in Great Danes abuse case
The state’s highest court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by a New Hampshire woman who argued her privacy was violated in a case that eventually led to her being convicted of housing dozens of filthy and sick Great Danes in her mansion.
In a unanimous decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found a lawyer for Christina Fay had not demonstrated her right to privacy was violated and turned down a request to vacate her convictions. Fay’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued authorities violated her privacy when they allowed an animal welfare group to take photos and video as it helped gather the dogs from her house.
The court also found the state did not violate Fay’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Fay’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued to a lower court that the evidence in the search should be suppressed because Wolfeboro police had failed to disclose that an animal welfare group would be participating when they requested a search warrant from a judge.
Fay, of Wolfeboro, was sentenced on 17 animal cruelty charges in 2018. A judge ruled that she would serve no jail time but that she would be responsible for paying back over $1 million for care of the dogs by the Humane Society of New Hampshire, which placed them with new owners.
A lawyer for Fay did not respond to a request for comment on the Supreme Court ruling.
Lindsay Hamrick, director of shelter outreach and engagement for the Humane Society of the United States, praised the ruling.
“We’re happy that the dogs have been experiencing the love of their adoptive families over the past two years and commend the New Hampshire legislature for passing regulations that require commercial breeders to be licensed and inspected in an effort to prevent this cruelty from occurring again,” Hamrick said in a statement.
Authorities had gotten a search warrant and seized 84 dogs from Fay’s home. They said the animals were living in filth and had health problems. Fay said she wanted to be the primary U.S. collector of European Great Danes and had been acquiring and breeding them since 2014.
Wolfeboro police said they didn’t have the resources to transport and care for the dogs, so they enlisted the Humane Society’s help. The society agreed to pay to take care of the dogs.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan McGinnis argued in court that the Humane Society never really solicited funds after putting out the photos, but that it explained its work on the case. Fay, she said, lost her right to privacy once the search warrant was issued.
McGinnis also said no court has ever required police to say whom they are planning to use to assist them on a search warrant. It was obvious from the police department’s application for the warrant that it would need help from an animal rights group, she said.