Puppy mills come in all shapes and sizes, and while virtually all of them are brutal, squalid breeding farms, they aren’t usually found in a $1.45 million mansion. But when concerned citizens contacted the Wolfeboro Police Department and the Pope Memorial SPCA in Concord, New Hampshire, with concerns about animal neglect, that’s what they discovered once they got past the opulent façade, says Lindsay Hamrick, New Hampshire state director for The Humane Society of the United States. Property owner Christina Fay was arrested on two misdemeanor counts of neglect.
“The home was an enormous, almost 15,000 square foot mansion. From the outside, the home looked stately, but the inside was in stark contrast,” she says.
Over 80 great danes were living in squalor, sliding and slipping in their own waste against a backdrop of long draperies on the windows and paintings on the walls.
“This case was absolutely heartbreaking as we realized how many animals were living in such deplorable and inhumane conditions,” says Hamrick.
Beautiful harlequin dogs were caged with obvious injuries and infections. Two dogs, one spotted and one blue, jumped on and off a filthy bed still covered with a bedspread. Many dogs roamed freely through the filthy eight-bedroom, nine-bath mansion.
“There were dog feces spread all over the floors and walls, the smell of ammonia was overwhelming, and the dogs had almost no access to water,” says Hamrick. Pieces of raw chicken was scattered on the floor. The windows were opaque with filth.
“I’ve never seen conditions this bad in more than 21 years of law enforcement.,” Chief Dean Rondeau of the Wolfeboro police department said in a statement. “Words cannot describe the absolute abhorrent conditions these animals were living in.”
The rescue brought up a lot of difficult emotions, says Hamrick. “But while we were working to rescue the dogs in horrible conditions, it was uplifting to see so many organizations and agencies come together for these dogs.”
It was a joint effort. “The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team took the lead on animal handling, while our shelter partners from the Conway Area Humane Society and Pope Memorial SPCA were on hand to assist,” says Hamrick. “The Wolfeboro police department, fire department, Stewarts ambulance service and many other agencies came out to support our efforts and ensure our safety.”
It was a long day of heartbreaking work. Most puppy mills tend to breed small size dogs. Some of the dogs that were rescued in this case were more than 5 feet, which is taller than a pony, and over 200 pounds. Not only that, but great danes usually have a life expectancy of 6 to 8 years — every day for this breed is significant. The dogs rescued ranged from puppies of only a few weeks old to adult dogs that had already spent half — or more — of their lives in these conditions.
“The following day, I visited the emergency animal shelter where The HSUS is caring for the dogs, and I felt such a sense of relief that they were now safe under our care,” says Hamrick. “Seeing them in a clean environment and sleeping soundly emphasized how badly they needed to be removed from this neglectful situation.”
Because New Hampshire doesn’t have a “cost of animal care” law, as other states do, the burden of medical expenses often falls on the donors and supporters rather than the person responsible for the neglect and abuse. Since the dogs are “evidence” in this situation, they cannot be adopted until the case goes to court.
“The Humane Society of the United States is caring for the dogs at an undisclosed emergency animal shelter where they will reside until the disposition of the case is reached,” says Hamrick. “We are providing medical and behavioral support every step of the way with the help of our Animal Rescue Team volunteers and our animal shelter partners.”
The hope is that this case reveals the need for stricter and earlier enforcement of animal cruelty laws.
“This case highlights the need for New Hampshire to pass stronger commercial breeder regulations and to ensure funding to enforce the ones we do have,” says Hamrick. “It also emphasizes the urgent need for New Hampshire to pass a cost of animal care law to ensure that the financial burden to care for animals seized in a criminal investigation, which currently falls to New Hampshire taxpayers, towns and animal welfare groups, is the responsibility of the owner.”
For this case, The Humane Society of the United States will cover 100 percent of the costs. People wishing to donate to the organization can do so at can do so on its website.
The dogs will need time to heal both body and spirit as many appeared “broken” when rescuers found them.
“We’ll continue to work day in and day out on their behavioral and medical rehabilitation, and we hope the outcome of this case will allow them to find loving, adoptive homes,” says Hamrick.
Of course, a few toys and room to run will help the process move faster. Nylabone has donated chew toys to help keep the dogs calm at the shelter, while Jewett-Cameron is providing its Lucky Dog custom kennels and exercise runs so the dogs, who had no access to proper exercise, will have the freedom to finally stretch their legs — and just be dogs.
Here is a video of the dogs being rescued: