EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire archives

January 12, 2008

Happy endings: Prospective owners line up to adopt seized animals

SALEM, N.H. - It's been a long way home for Sophie the pug. Ditto for Scarlet, Mylie and Harry, the miniature pinschers, and for 48 other dogs and two parrots, all seized last September in the Christine Harris animal cruelty case.



Animal Control Officer Kelly Demers removed the animals from Harris' condemned mobile home with help from a team from the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.



Ever since, the Boston terriers, pugs, miniature pinschers and mixed-breed pups have been split up among several New Hampshire animal shelters, living in protective custody while the court dealt with their former owner.



On Wednesday, Harris was convicted of five counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Although she is appealing the decision, the shelters are allowed to put her dogs up for adoption, according to Steve Sprowl, animal cruelty investigator with the NHSPCA.



After the prosecutor agreed not to hold the dogs for evidence, Sprowl said the NHSPCA sent Harris a letter, notifying her she could retrieve the dogs and pay the bill for expenses at the shelter.



She refused to accept the certified mail, he said. At that point, Harris owed $55,000 for the dogs' room, board and medical care, he said. Ultimately, Harris was sent three certified letters. She refused all of them, he said.



So far, the Stratham Animal Shelter, which cared for 17 of the dogs and one parrot, has found new homes for the bird and all but four of the dogs.



"Whenever there's a high-profile case, people are always stepping up to help those animals," Sprowl said.



A similar public outpouring came after Hurricane Katrina, which left hundreds of dogs without shelter.



"It opens up their hearts a lot more because they've seen the dogs are really going through suffering," Sprowl said. "People seem to want to help dogs in danger or in need more than they want to help just a stray mutt from down the street."



The demand for the dogs has created an unusual situation for the Salem Animal Rescue League, which is going through 200 applications for the eight dogs, which have not yet been adopted.



The shelter is usually overwhelmed with unwanted animals, but this time, they're not taking anymore names.



But other shelters still have Harris dogs in need of homes. The Monadnock Shelter, which has cared for eight of the dogs, has four left to be adopted, according to Stephanie Frommer. Frommer said they have pugs and miniature pinschers.



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