Defendant Appeals- 36 German Shepherds to Continue Living in Protective Custody Limbo
Stratham, NH – On Thursday, July 19, 2018, the case involving the 36 German Shepherds held since December finally went to court. The defendant was found guilty of multiple charges of cruelty to animals. However, the dogs remain in protective custody limbo for what likely will be several more months.
For 8 months, the NHSPCA has been caring for 36 German Shepherd dogs, three rabbits and a chicken that are being held as live evidence in the case against Jennifer Choate. The animals are in protective custody, which means that we are unable to find them loving homes. “We had hoped that the animals would be relinquished last week and we could finally start the long process of preparing these dogs to go into forever homes,” said Lisa Dennison, Executive Director of the New Hampshire SPCA. “Unfortunately, the defendant appealed immediately and is unwilling to do what is best for the dogs.”
Ms. Choate was found guilty on 22 charges of animal cruelty. She was ordered to receive 1 year in jail with 6 months suspended. In addition, she would have to relinquish the animals, pay restitution to the NHSPCA and only be able to own one dog at a time for the rest of her life. Her appeal has put all of these court orders on hold.
“This outcome is tragic for the German Shepherds. We’ve already been holding them for far too long and now to have to wait even longer feels tremendously unjust,” said Ms. Dennison. “These animals are being fed, cared for, cleaned-up after, and kept healthy. We have adult dogs and puppies that have never known a home. The workload on our staff and volunteers is taking its toll. Just today, we learned that the appeal is not likely to be heard until the very end of October…3 more months. The most difficult part is the not knowing when we will be able to find them a home. We are doing our very best, but a shelter or a kennel is not a home.”
The New Hampshire SPCA is required by law to keep the animals, held as evidence, until the court decides their fate. In addition, the burden of the cost of caring for 36 dogs continues to grow. While Ms. Choate has been ordered to pay restitution, the Appeals Court has the power to reverse this decision. And even when restitution is ordered, historically the collection rate is minimal.
“Our community has been truly supportive during this time, and we are so grateful” said Ms. Dennison. “But now that we are facing additional months of care, we are more stretched and frustrated than ever.”
If you would like to help with the cost of care and to help ensure recovery of the Shepherds and other victims of cruelty or neglect, please make a tax-deductible contribution to the SOS FUND by going to www.nhspca.org. A direct link to the SOS Fund here.
Gifts to the SOS Fund can also be made by phone at 603-772-2921 x 102 or by mail: New Hampshire SPCA, PO Box 196, Stratham, NH 03885.