January 11, 2018ALEXANDRIA — A local woman was arrested in Alexandria last Tuesday afternoon for 22 counts of Cruelty to Animals, following investigations that began last fall in Bristol and came to a head after two fires occurred at her residence at 92 Chestnut St. in Bristol in November.
In those two incidents, firefighters and police in Bristol found several dogs on the property, some of which died as the result of faulty heating appliances that sparked the flames.
Prior to those fires, Alexandria Police Chief Donald Sullivan said Bristol Police advised his department last October that there was an issue with a dog kennel and presumed breeding operation overseen by Jennifer "Bobbi" Choate on Chestnut Street, as well as many of her animals, were consequently being moved to Alexandria.
Concerned about the number of animals involved, APD decided to stop by for a welfare check on the animals, which they learned were being temporarily housed at a farm on Burns Hill Road.
"We obtained a search warrant and went up to check on them due to the sheer number of dogs she owned," Sullivan said. "Basically, there were a lot of dogs there but there was fresh, clean shavings, water and plenty of food, so we determined the dogs were fine at that time."
With frigid winter temperatures settling in however, Alexandria Police received a call last week from the property owner who then voiced concerns of her own. Through an agreement with Choate, the dogs were temporarily housed inside her barn while Choate was expected to provide all care for the animals. Throughout the fall, the dogs remained in open cages with no real enclosed shelter and that, the landowner told police, was troubling to her as temperatures soon plummeted in early January.
Alexandria Police agreed.
"We went up there last week and found the water bowls were frozen, the shavings were soaked with frozen urine and feces, and the dogs had no solid structures where they could stay warm," said Sullivan. "Basically, it was colder in the barn then it was outside and that was a real concern."
The chief said Choate readily agreed to meet them at the property last Tuesday afternoon, then left for a while, hoping to find other accommodations for the dogs. When she returned however, she found officers had a warrant for her arrest and vehicles from the SPCA had arrived to remove the animals.
"We ended up arresting her for 22 counts of Cruelty to Animals, which is currently only a Class B misdemeanor. There is no jail time involved, but we're working with the prosecutor to see if we can up that to a Class A Misdemeanor," Sullivan said.
With other cruelty charges pending in Bristol as well, they hope that may help their case.
"What initially caused her arrest in Alexandria, though, was the weather and her failure to provide proper care," said Sullivan.
Choate was released on personal recognizance bail and will now face arraignment on those charges, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 12 in Plymouth District Court.
In the meantime concerned animal lovers can help provide food and care for the 22 German Shepherds currently being housed and assessed at the Strafford SPCA by making an online cash donation through nhspca.org.