By DAYMOND STEER, CONWAY DAILY SUN
OSSIPEE — A veterinarian expert witness for the woman charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty for the alleged mistreatment of numerous Great Danes, testified Tuesday that the animals would be better off in new homes rather than remain in the care of the Humane Society of the United States.
In the meantime, a firm date for the trial for Christina Fay of Wolfeboro has now been set.
Police and HSUS members last June raided locations in Wolfeboro and Bartlett, seizing 84 Great Danes they alleged were being mistreated. The dogs are being held as evidence in a secret location.
The Conway Area Humane Society received another nine dogs prior to the seizure.
Fay, 59, is seeking the return of her dogs.
She was initially charged with two misdemeanor counts of animal neglect.
Tuesday’s hearing in circuit court concerned issues such as rehoming the dogs, suppressing a search warrant, a motion quashing charges and a motion for discovery.
On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Charles Greenhalgh said the trial would start Oct. 16 unless “extraordinary circumstances” caused a delay.
By agreement between the state and the defense, Dr. Samantha Ann Moffitt of Fredericksburg, Virginia, got to look at the dogs in the care of HSUS on Monday. Moffitt said she works for a rescue organization that handles animals who were involved in cock fighting and dog fighting. In other court cases, she has testified for the state and the defense.
Moffitt said she was not hired by Fay and under cross-examination from prosecutor Simon Brown clarified that she was acting on a volunteer basis as “an outside source reviewing the records.”
Previous to Moffitt’s participation, the defense complained they were unable to find a veterinarian willing to look at the dogs.
During her own testimony, Fay said she could find homes for at least 43 of the dogs.
“I definitely think after looking at these dogs yesterday they would be better off rehomed,” Moffitt said in court. “They are stressed in that environment just with us walking through. I can just imagine volunteers walking through when it’s time for feeding or walking through to take these dogs to the vet.
“If there is any other kind of traffic through there, it’s going to stress these dogs. Also, they need a little bit of exercise,” Moffitt said.
Lindsay Hamrick of the HSUS said Wednesday that Moffitt did not examine the dogs closely because she is not licensed in New Hampshire.
“One dog was even lying on her bed and she had stool and she was just lying in it,” said Moffitt, adding that in general the runs were fairly clean.
Moffitt said she looked at five dogs that were named in the complaints against Fay.
“I was only allowed to observe the dogs, not a hands-on examination,” said Moffitt, who said the dogs were held in a “storage unit-type building. I was kind of actually surprised. I’d walk in, and they would barely lift their heads up. They wouldn’t get off their little bed. You can just tell they are kind of depressed. Other ones are the exact opposite, where they started barking and pacing back and forth in a very small pen, maybe 5 feet by 10 feet, which is not very large for these very large-breed dogs.”
Moffitt said during her tour of the two facilities that contained the dogs, she noticed some cages had signs that suggested the dogs had special diets or could only be handled by staff. She said her tour guides didn’t know why the signs were there.
She also noticed one cage had a bucket of leftover kibble mixed with peanut butter and a “white substance” that may have been leftover medication.
“My question or concern would have been: ‘Who is there to say that they are getting the medication?'” Moffitt said.
The vet testified the dogs had a variety of dry kibble and wet foods. The dogs were on a raw diet.
“My concern is: Were these dogs fed the same food or whatever was donated?” said Moffitt. “If these dogs were fed a raw diet, was there a slow transition over to a diet of their choosing? You have to do a slow transition if you are changing any type of diet with this kind of dog to prevent any kind of GI (gastrointestinal) upset.”
One of Fay’s attorneys, Kent Barker of the Law Office of Winer and Bennett in Nashua, asked whether she had viewed vaccination records at the HSUS, and she replied that she had.
“It looked like the veterinarian who saw them the next day at the Humane Society just went ahead and vaccinated them,” said Moffitt. “To me that’s kind of neglect to not research to look and see that she (Fay) had medical records.”
She said over-vaccination is “frowned upon.”
Under questioning from prosecuting attorney Brown, Moffitt testified there were discrepancies, particularly with the dogs’ weight, among reports from three other veterinarians who examined the dogs. She said there was an “in-field vet,” a Humane Society vet and a primary vet. She didn’t name them.
The vet also discussed medical conditions the Great Danes suffered from. Because of their bone structure and lack of a protective hair on their tails, the breed is prone to happy tail syndrome, an injury that happens when the tail is wagged against a hard surface.
Happy tail can be treated medically with antibiotics or with surgical amputation.
Moffitt also said a condition called cherry eye (a prolapse of the third eyelid), is congenital. She said if it is to be fixed, it’s good practice to wait for both eyes to “pop” so both can be corrected at the same time. She said use of anesthesia in treating cherry eye and other procedures carries hazards for the dogs. She said cherry eye can be treated with surgery or with artificial tears.
Papilloma virus creates growths along dogs’ lips and gums and doesn’t need to be removed unless they are causing bleeding or trouble with chewing or swallowing.
Brown questioned Moffitt about why she didn’t find anything unusual about the dogs having conditions like happy tail.
“Those are very common ailments, and they are very minor,” said Moffitt.
Brown asked whether one person could reasonably take care of 75 Great Danes for 48 hours. He asked this because Fay said she took care of the dogs herself on weekends.
“It can happen,” said Moffitt, adding that a single person could feasibly cover 75 dogs if he or she had a good schedule.
Dr. Samantha Moffitt of Fredericksburg, Virginia, is sworn in by defense attorney Kent Barker at a pretrial hearing in Christina Fay’s animal cruelty case in Ossipee’s circuit court. (Daymond Steer/Conway Daily Sun)