Or perhaps we should call it a horror movie. One so utterly shocking and gruesome that the chief, Dean Rondeau, a tough, barrel-chested officer and retired Army colonel, wearing a respirator and Tyvek suit, began dry heaving.
“The ammonia level was so high,” the chief said Monday in his office. “My nose and mucous membranes burning, my eyes burning. I had to hold my respirator close to my mouth because (the smell) was coming in from the sides. I ended up completely incapacitated.”
Rondeau and his captain, Mike Livie, described what they saw inside that eight-bedroom mansion at 149 Warren Sands Road. The one with 75 adult Great Danes inside, each covered in feces and urine, each infected with Lord-knows-what disease, each allegedly abused by a woman named Christina Fay.
She’s charged with two counts of animal neglect. She allegedly was selling Great Dane puppies without the proper credentials.
Rondeau said more charges are on the way, including reckless conduct charges and endangering the welfare of a child, since a 16-year-old had been there at the house, working as part of a large staff. Rondeau wouldn’t release any other details about the teen.
Elsewhere, he and his captain held little back.
They saw cages lined up in the basement and dogs roaming free. There was rotting chicken in the refrigerator.
Livie said he saw dog waste high on the walls. High on the windows, too. In areas an NBA player might have trouble reaching. How, I asked, could the stuff get spread all over the place in that manner?
“They were walking in feces,” Livie said, standing in Rondeau’s office doorway. “They want to get out, they will climb the wall, they’ll look out the window, so they’re smearing it everywhere. They’re taller than me. I’m 5-11.”
Taller than Livie. On their hind legs, these dogs are giants. On all fours, they can look an average-sized man in the eye. One weighed 300 pounds; another few were well over 200. A horse trailer was needed to take them away, where they could be cared for, tested for disease, loved.
“What do you do with (75) Great Danes?” the chief asked rhetorically, trying to describe the enormity of what he faced last week. “Not bringing them to my house. Who’s going to care for them, and by the way, they’re infected. How do we move them? What kind of medical care do they need? How infectious is their waste?”
“When people come in to the police, we take people at their word when they apply to our town for permits, building permits, zoning permits, occupancy permits,” Rondeau told me. “She said, ‘No, I’m not running a kennel, I’m not a breeder, I’m not selling these dogs.’ There is a presumption there, until they show they are not truthful, that they are not compliant.”
Then, the signals began surfacing. Complaints were filed by a neighbor of dogs barking at the house for extended periods of time. More recently, animal control officers served notice at the home and got a whiff of something really bad.
Also, a bunch of dogs that someone had gotten from Fay ended up at the Conway Area Humane Society, where staff doctors noticed something was wrong.
There was feces in the fur. They had something called cherry eye, which speaks for itself. It looked like there might have been other problems, illnesses like papilloma virus and salmonella.
“Now we have photos, statements, other information, and now we’re building a case that is not hearsay,” Rondeau said. “This was a business doing everything wrong. It was not permitted properly, not a licensed kennel, no state breeding licenses.”
Rondeau praised Tona McCarthy, an investigator with the Pope Memorial SPCA in Concord. He praised the U.S. Humane Society, which brought in mobile equipment and about 50 staffers and trained animal rescuers and technicians with refrigerated trailers to keep the dogs cool and food and medical supplies.
The dogs are all in state at undisclosed shelters. Results from toxicology reports and blood tests won’t be available for weeks.
“A massive operation,” Rondeau said.
So massive, in fact, that reports went out across the region, the country, the world. I ran into a Maine freelancer photographer who was teamed with a writer from the U.K.’s DailyMail.com, which has an office in New York City.
Stories about animals hit home somehow. This one sure hit Rondeau and Livie and the rest of the Wolfeboro Police Department.
In fact, Rondeau has a dog named Snoopy, half beagle, half bluetick hound. Snoopy likes to sit on the garage roof and splash in water.
Rondeau’s wife, who happens to be the health officer in Wolfeboro and a registered nurse, has her own dog, a poodle. She had to go into the mansion last Friday, too. Wearing a Tyvek suit.
“She came out and was buckled over,” Rondeau said.
It was that kind of day. A day in which 84 dogs were found, including nine Great Dane puppies, some a week or so old, recovered separately in Bartlett. Another nine puppies were found elsewhere in a related part of the investigation, Rondeau revealed. Some needed round-the-clock care, including bottle feeding.
Rondeau called the mansion, which was last assessed at nearly $1.8 million, a “petri dish.” Its owner remains somewhat of a mystery, a woman with ties to Maine and New York City. Her alleged crime remains under investigation and hard to believe.
Hardwood floors covered with feces and urine. Tyvek suits needed to enter the home.
“Words can not describe it,” Rondeau said.
(Concord Monitor - June 20, 2017)