ELLIS COUNTY (CBS11) - A 69-year-old Ellis County woman is charged with animal cruelty after dozens of animals were seized from her home business, Maximum-K-9 off-leash training facility. Gayle Justice was arrested on a single count of cruelty to non-livestock animals.
Neighbor Mary Castillo saw many dogs there over the years. "To me they looked like they were malnourished. Some of them were thin," Castillo told CBS 11 News.
Castillo said she was surprised when deputies and the SPCA showed up and began removing animals. She said she has seen people drop off dogs; but she didn't like what she would hear from her neighbor's yard from time to time. "I could hear dogs crying, sometimes like they were getting beat up," she said. But Castillo is quick to add she never saw any abuse and knew nothing about dead animals in bags out back.
The business has an online presence with an ad that guarantees off-leash training. It boasts several pages of testimonials and offers other services. "This is a boarding house as well for animals," according to Ellis County Sheriff's Lieutenant James Saulter, "so I don't know that they've all been treated bad or there's any issues; we know that some are malnutritioned (sic) for sure."
While 68 dogs were seized, a macaw and three cats were also taken for safekeeping. Ellis County Sheriff's deputies say they were turned away when they tried to talk to Ms. Justice last night, but came back today with the Dallas SPCA--- and a warrant. "She hasn't given us any problems but she doesn't see any problem with what's going on here. There was also a number, somewhere between 15-20, and they're still working on that, of deceased animals that are put in bags and just thrown out in the back behind the house," according to Saulter.
Nonetheless, Gayle Justice was arrested on a single count of animal cruelty, though Saulter tells CBS 11 News that number could go up.
The animal cruelty charge is a Class-A misdemeanor. Mrs. Justice has no prior criminal convictions, according to Saulter, otherwise the charge could have been bumped up to a felony.
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