WASHINGTON — The town of Wolfeboro is asking a federal judge to dismiss a $35 million lawsuit filed against it and the Humane Society of the United States by Christina Fay who is appealing over a dozen animal cruelty convictions.
Meanwhile, the HSUS has issued a statement in response to Fay’s claims as reported by the Sun.
Fay, 62, was convicted in March of 2018 for neglecting about 75 Great Danes that she kept on the property of her $1.5 million Wolfeboro mansion. Most of the charges involved failing to provide care to specific dogs which suffered from various ailments like papiloma infections. Police, assisted by HSUS, raided her property in 2017. Another nine dogs were taken from a veterinarian’s office.
Fay was sentenced to a year in jail and required to pay $1.9 million for the upkeep of the dogs during the months leading up to her trial. Her sentence was suspended, but she still appealed the verdict to the state Supreme Court. That appeal was heard in February, and the case is still pending.
Last month, Fay filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, seeking $35 million for personal injury. However, the case was moved in mid-July to District Court there.
According to her attorney, Paul Zukerberg of Zuckerberg & Halperin PLLC of Washington, D.C., in 2017 Fay moved from Maine to Wolfeboro with 50 Great Danes and three assistants. Months later, Fay hurt her knee and had problems keeping enough staff to help her maintain the dogs, by then 75 adults and nine puppies.
Zuckerberg claims the HSUS opposes breeders of pedigree dogs.
“HSUS has a pattern throughout the United States of forming conspiracies for the purpose of raiding citizens’ homes, acting as if they have police powers, falsely claiming that animals are being abused, confiscating the owners’ dogs and/or other domesticated animals and of disposing the animals as they see fit,” said Zuckerberg.
“HSUS then uses social and print media, seminars, lectures, pamphlets and other venues to ... promote their ideology and to raise money to perpetrate their organization.”
HSUS Senior Director of Media Relations Anna West in an email Friday addressed some of the claims in the lawsuit which the Sun reported Friday.
“While the HSUS is dedicated to stopping puppy mills, which are essentially factory farms for dogs, and opposes any breeding operation in which dogs are forced to suffer in poor conditions, we absolutely do not oppose all breeders,” said West. “We even provide recommendations for people who want to purchase a dog on how to find a responsible breeder.”
Zuckerberg alleges that the HSUS “embellished” photos of the scene and even claims that the HSUS “stole” jewelry. The lawsuit says the police and HSUS “failed” to secure her home which subjected it to “further” looting.
West denied accusations that the HSUS doctored photos, stole items or that the HSUS was responsible for securing the home.
“We take the evidentiary process very seriously; what’s more, we have an explicit photo ethics policy that forbids any such alterations,” said West. “Law enforcement collected evidence, including samples of the filth collected from various parts of the house where Fay kept the dogs. Those samples revealed feces contaminated with giardia, a parasite that sickens both dogs and humans. Both a jury and a judge found this evidence credible and ultimately convicted Ms. Fay of animal cruelty.”
West said the HSUS agents took “nothing from the home except the dogs and the collars they were wearing at the time they were removed from the property.” West also said standard operating procedure is for police to secure a property after a search warrant is executed.
Through its attorney, Katherine Yoder of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata, the town of Wolfeboro filed a motion Friday asking Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court District of Columbia to dismiss the case or have it moved to United States District Court District of New Hampshire. The motion and supporting affidavits says that the D.C. court shouldn’t have jurisdiction over the case.
“Thus, the only facts in support of Plaintiff’s assertion that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Wolfeboro are the following: (1) Wolfeboro entered a single Agreement with an entity that has a ‘main office’ in Washington, D.C.; (2) the Agreement is governed and construed under District of Columbia law. Wolfeboro was ‘an agent’ of, and/or conspired with HSUS with respect to the removal of the Plaintiff’s Great Danes,” said Yoder. “Plaintiff alleges it was HSUS, not Wolfeboro, that ‘planned and directed’ the wrongful acts, and that HSUS did so from Washington, D.C. Virtually every other fact set forth in the Plaintiff’s Complaint takes place in New Hampshire.”
“The Agreement was executed in New Hampshire on June 16, 2017 ... The Animal Rescue Operation that is the subject of the Agreement took place in New Hampshire ... The Agreement is insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over Wolfeboro.”
Yoder also argues that it would be “difficult and expensive” for Wolfeboro to have town employees testify in D.C. Yoder had the case moved from the D.C. Superior Court to the federal court in D.C.
Named as defendants are the HSUS, which is based in Washington, D.C.; the HSUS’ attorney, Leana Elaine Stormont; and the town of Wolfeboro.
Zuckerberg’s lawsuit says Fay’s rights to due process and equal protection were violated; that the defendants were involved in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy; and under common law committed theft, slander and caused her emotional harm.
The proposed $35 million in damages is broken down this way: $999,000 for the “illegal” taking 84 Great Danes, $8,000,000 for the “loss of stud and breeding income,” $1 million for lost value of her Wolfeboro home; $750,000 for damage to her home, $142,000 to pay a bond to prevent the dogs from being euthanized, $350,000 for alleged “theft and destruction of her belongings,” about $400,000 for various attorney fees.
The lawsuit says she seeks $11,644,000 in compensatory damages, $15,000,000 for the “permanent loss of the love and affection of her dogs and for the intentional, negligent and permanent infliction of emotional harm, she seeks $10,000,000 for violations of federal law. She seeks damages from all the defendants.