OSSIPEE — Christina Fay, the onetime Wolfeboro dog fancier convicted on 17 counts of animal cruelty, had her sentence imposed Thursday in Carroll County Superior Court.
She specifically requested to be able to have a second dog, but that request was denied.
Fay had been sentenced three years ago but the sentence was put in limbo during her unsuccessful appeal to the state Supreme Court.
In March 2018, Carroll County Superior Court jury found Fay guilty of 17 counts of animal cruelty. Fay, now 62, was convicted of neglecting about 75 Great Danes that she kept at a mansion she owned in Wolfeboro.
A few months later, she received her sentence from Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius: a year in jail, suspended for five years; a fine of about $45,000; and restitution of almost $2 million to The Humane Society of the United States, which seized the dogs and took care of them for years as the case wound through the court system; and $18,700 to the town of Wolfeboro. She was also required to participate in counseling.
Her appeal, State of New Hampshire v. Christina Fay, was argued before the high court Feb. 12, 2020. The crux of her appeal was that the HSUS' involvement in the seizure of her dogs was improper as was the use of photos from that event in the group's fundraising campaigns.
An 11-page opinion denying her appeal, written by N.H. Supreme Court Justice Anna Barbara “Bobbie” Hantz Marconi and released in early December, said, in part, "We conclude that the State did not violate Part I, Article 19’s requirement that the manner of a search warrant’s execution be reasonable by failing to obtain authorization for HSUS’ involvement prior to the warrant’s execution."
On Thursday, Fay appeared in court by phone. Her attorney, James Cowles, and Deputy County Attorney Steven Briden appeared by WebEx and the sentencing was live streamed by WMUR.
"This is a day for the commencement of the sentence to go forward," said Ignatius, who said there are 17 different charges "for which there are identical sentences."
Ignatius said she wouldn't read all 17 sentences because they are all the same. That sentence is 12 months in Carroll County House of Corrections to be suspended for five years pending good behavior. Fay has one day of pre-trial confinement credit.
Fay must participate in mental health counseling at the rate of two sessions per month.
"The sentence is concurrent, meaning all of the other 16 sentences run at the same time, concurrent with one another," said Ignatius.
The portion of the sentence having to do with custody of the dogs was implemented immediately. Most were rehomed. Fay was allowed to have two dogs during the five-year period, including a specific dog named Eta Beta.
Ignatius added her intent is that if Eta Beta died, Fay would be limited to one dog.
On Thursday, Cowles told the court that Eta Beta had "passed way" and suggested that perhaps Fay should be able to have a second dog again.
"It's not that much of a divergence from what the court already ordered," said Cowles. "Because the court did contemplate that while Eta was still with us, she could have Eta and one dog," said Cowles, adding the intent was to give the remaining dog some "companionship."
But Ignatius said she had already decided that Fay could not have one dog besides Eta Beta but she said Cowles could try to sway her later on if he filed a request.
"So at this point, I wouldn't be agreeable to that," said Ignatius.
There was also a fine of $2,000 plus a penalty assessment of $480 per dog. Multiplied by 17, Fay's fines would be about $41,000, plus a 10 percent collection fee. Fay was also ordered to pay $18,682.88 to the town of Wolfeboro plus $1,953,606 to The Humane Society of the United States.
Ignatius said the amount owed by Fay to HSUS could be adjusted up or down based on a meeting between with HSUS representatives within the next 60 days. The restitution is due in full in five years.
Cowles said Fay has $142,000 in escrow to pay the fine and town of Wolfeboro plus make a dent in the amount owed the HSUS.
But he was concerned that Fay could not pay the entire amount by the deadline.
"We're looking at a staggering amount of restitution," said Cowles. "And we very well might have to be here at some point before five years are up because I as of right now with the financial affidavit I filed with the court, unless Ms. Fay's circumstances drastically change I don't know how she's going to be able to satisfy the entire amount in full in five years, given how large it is."
Briden said the $142,000 was meant to be used for animal care and restitution and proposed it be divided between Wolfeboro and the HSUS and paid directly to them as opposed to being paid to the probation department.. If the money went through probation, it would be subject to an 18 percent fee, he said.
"I think that's a really good suggestion," Ignatius said.
The judge said Fay's financial affidavit had been placed under seal and a hearing about her financial circumstances could be held in the future if need be.
"I wish everybody the best and I hope things move forward in a positive way," said Ignatius at the close of Thursday's hearing.