Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Hampshire: The signs of animal abuse were there at Tina Fay's house, if you looked

NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Bobbi Boudman of Wolfeboro says she suspected something right away.

She saw things, heard things.

She didn’t know exactly how many giant dogs Christina Fay (aka Tina Fay, Maria Fay, Maria Christina Fay), recently busted for animal abuse, owned when she moved into that giant home two years ago, but she knew it was at least a few dozen.

She knew Fay, Boudman’s neighbor, covered her face each time Boudman tried to be neighborly, never responded to her Christmas cards, never answered the front door. The UPS guy told her about all those dog beds he had delivered, all that food.

And the barking, of course. Boudman heard it each day, for long periods of time – an hour, two hours, six hours – and she believed the dogs, Great Danes, were speaking to her. There was pain in those barks, intensity, something.

“I’ve had two years to research her,” Boudman said, standing with her husband, Christian, on their driveway recently. “Two years and 10 days. I researched her before she even moved in, because she was moving in with all those Great Danes.”

By now, you’ve heard the story. The one about Fay’s arrest on two counts of animal neglect, and the possibility that she was selling puppies without proper licensing.


The one about 93 Great Danes, including 18 puppies, being discovered last Friday, mostly in Fay’s eight-bedroom, $1.8 million house, the one that looks appropriate for a star like Anthony Hopkins on the outside, but Hannibal Lecter on the inside.

Cops wore Tyvek suits to search the three-floor home. They found feces and urine everywhere, coating the floors like wax, staining the walls like paint. They found rotting meat and chicken. They found one bowl of water, for 75 big dogs, some more than 200 pounds and more than 6 feet tall while standing on their hind legs.

Wolfeboro police Chief Dean Rondeau was forced to press the sides of his respirator tighter to his mouth to block the stench, yet he still had the dry heaves.

Court documents released Tuesday told the full story, including a phone number for Fay with a Connecticut area code (a voice machine had no room for a message).


The complaint doesn’t mention Boudman by name, but there are multiple complaints about barking dogs and disturbing the peace, each resulting in small fines.

“Anytime I called the police they were out there giving her a citation,” Boudman told me. “That was the big crux of the case, being able to open this because of the noise, and that is the sad reality of this. You should not have to go through noise. You should be able to look at things like this before you ever have to call and say, ‘It’s noisy, come down here.’ ”

The facts, the signals, the fuel that led to Fay’s arrest were hidden in plain sight. There was the report of a dog bite early on, after she moved into the house with her son. There was Boudman’s string of complaints, and photos taken by a 16-year-old employee at the mansion showing Great Danes in small cages and closed windows and brown substances everywhere and maggots.


The photos were given to Megan Fichter, director of the Lakes Region Humane Society, who showed them to Tona McCarthy, director of field services at Concord’s Pope Memorial SPCA, who showed them to the Wolfeboro police, who had already gotten a whiff of something really bad that same morning while serving yet another complaint.

Other staff members working for Fay soon came forward, and the police began building their case so they could go inside the home.

So now come the questions. Couldn’t someone, anyone, have jumped in sooner?

There are facts that tell us this could have and should have been noticed long ago. Fay applied for a group license, which is needed when you own at least five dogs.

Photos from Tina Fay's business Facebook page

Pat Waterman has been Wolfeboro’s town clerk for more than 30 years. She was working the day Fay came in looking for that group license. She had paperwork showing Fay’s Great Danes had been vaccinated for rabies.

All 46 of them.

Waterman said Fay called them her “babies.” Didn’t Waterman smell something as bad as the feces later found in the mansion? Didn’t she think it was odd someone would have 46 dogs as pets? Didn’t she suspect illegal breeding was happening?

“Yes, I did,” Waterman told me by phone.

In fact, Waterman was so concerned that she said she wrote a letter to Stephen Crawford, the state veterinarian, two years ago, asking him to look into the matter.

She said she even included the website for Fay’s business, De La Sang Monde Great Danes, since taken down, which advertised the sale of Great Dane puppies at the mansion on Warren Sands Road. She said she got the site from the town’s animal control officer, Earl Clough, who did not return a call left on his voicemail.

“I said that this might not be a group license, that this person could be running a business of selling her dogs,” Waterman said, referring to her letter to Crawford. “I thought someone would investigate, that this might be a kennel and not a group license for pets.”

Nothing happened, though.


Rob Houseman, the former director of planning and development in Wolfeboro, met Fay, too. She introduced herself as the “crazy dog lady,” Houseman told me by phone. She wanted a permit to fence off 6 acres of her property.

Houseman checked her out. He spoke to Fay’s lawyer. He said he was told Fay had about 20 Great Danes.

“We discussed what her passion was and she said she used (the dogs) for events like taking them to the Boston Children’s Hospital cancer wing and fundraisers for organizations,” Houseman said. “To the best of my ability, I tried to identify whether there was any risk associated with her purchase, and my job is to project if there would be a violation on the line.”

Houseman added: “There were allegations coming into my office on occasion, and we would send a note to her attorney saying, ‘Can you address this issue?’ But I can not prevent somebody from violating the rules. We did not have clear or direct probable cause.”


That, finally, occurred last Friday, when Wolfeboro police got the shock of their lives. They were helped by the New Hampshire chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, which picked up the tab, currently about $10,000. That could increase by 10 times or more when all is said and done, according to Lindsay Hamrick, the Humane Society’s state director.

She sent in the cavalry on this one: a tractor trailer-sized rig, a tractor trailer-sized refrigerated truck, three horse trailers, technicians, veterinarians and on and on.

“We started mobilizing six days before the warrants were served,” Hamrick said by phone. “I’ve been part of investigations in New Hampshire for 12 years, and I’ve been in situations that smell bad, but this was unique in that it was a 15,000-square-foot home with all these dogs. I’ve never seen that kind of environment that was destroyed to such a point.”

The dogs were found with eye and skin irritations, an infectious disease and cut tails. Blood tests are pending, and other diseases with slow incubation periods may loom on the horizon.

Nine adult dogs are at the Conway Humane Society. The rest are at an undisclosed location, housed by a makeshift facility, compliments of the U.S. Humane Society. The dogs in Conway are jumpy but happy, said Virginia Moore, executive director at the Conway Humane Society.

“We’re looking for people to adopt them once their medical needs are met,” Moore said. “We’re not done with all the assessments, and that will be probably five weeks. Could be more.”


Meanwhile, questions remain. Who is Fay? A 1987 marriage announcement in the New York Times described her as the daughter of an executive vice president of an investment banking firm who attended Manhattanville College and worked as an account executive with a New York public relations company.

Closer to home, will our Legislature tighten up regulations to guard against this sort of scenario? Hamrick is lobbying the Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for monitoring breeding agencies. Licenses are needed to raise and sell a minimum of 50 puppies or 10 litters in any 12-month period.

“We have deep concerns this situation could have been prevented, or at least alleviated sooner if our commercial breeder regulations were much stronger than what they are now,” Hamrick said. “It takes resources on the (Department of Agriculture’s) part to dig up how many puppies someone is selling.”

As for Boudman, she, like many, is frustrated that something wasn’t done sooner. Feces wasn’t the only thing on the wall.

The writing was, too.

“I went in with paperwork showing she had employees, yet she was not a registered business,” Boudman said. “She was making sure she was falling through the cracks.”

Added Boudman’s husband, Christian: “We just know that town government failed.”


(Concord Monitor - June 21, 2017)