SPCA given custody of over 70 seized animals during court hearing

Photo courtesy SPCA of Texas.
According to SPCA of Texas, "The dog was housed in a hot room surrounded by other crated dogs."

WAXAHACHIE — SPCA of Texas and Gayle Justice reached an agreement Wednesday resulting in SPCA taking permanent custody of over 70 animals seized from Justice's residence during a joint raid with the Ellis County Sheriff's Office (ECSO) on July 23.

During a court hearing in front Judge Jackie Miller in Justice of the Peace Court Precinct 2, a SPCA prosecutor presented the agency's case. Justice, who owned Maximum K-9 in Waxahachie, and her attorney, Jim Jenkins, reached an agreement with SPCA before the hearing began.

At issue was the custody of 68 dogs, three cats and one bird. Art Munoz, Senior Investigator for the SPCA of Texas, testified the SPCA has spent $18,309 caring for the seized animals since July 23.

According to his testimony, some of the expenses include: $9,870 for housing the animals since July 23, $525 for transport and staff, $285 for vaccinations, $6,859 for various medical care and $385 for court costs.

The Ellis County Sheriff's Office and SPCA raided Maximum K-9, owned by Gayle Justice, on Thursday, July 23, 2015 after an anonymous tip led Deputies to numerous dead animals.Photo source: Maximum K-9 website.

The Ellis County Sheriff's Office and SPCA raided Maximum K-9, owned by Gayle Justice, on Thursday, July 23, 2015 after an anonymous tip led Deputies to numerous dead animals.

Justice agreed to give up custody of the animals, waived the right to appeal and agreed to reimburse SPCA in the amount of $18,309.

Munoz explained to the court that if the agreement had not been reached and Justice appealed a decision by the court that SPCA would incur an additional $32,250 in expenses because the agency would be required to wait 25 days before releasing non-microchipped animals to their owners.

According to Munoz, some microchipped animals have already been returned to their owners. Any owners who do not have their animals microchipped can contact the SPCA of Texas and provide any kind evidence, such as photos or vet records, to claim ownership of their animals.

Munoz also testified that pet owners will not be charged any fees for claiming their pets.

Jenkins said his client has been taking care of animals for over 30 years and Justice feels very bad about this. He further stated that health and family issues created a perfect storm in her ability to fully care for the animals and that his client feels very terrible.

The prosecution was ready to present evidence to the court proving ongoing neglect rather than the defense's claim of recent situations causing the neglect. Judge Miller stated presenting the evidence was not necessary because an agreement had been reached.

After the hearing, Jenkins said the prosecution made the offer to present evidence for the benefit of audience members.

"That was said for the benefit of those in the room in my opinion," Jenkins said.

According to SPCA, "The dog was found to be emaciated and in need of medical attention."Photo courtesy SPCA of Texas.

According to SPCA, "The dog was found to be emaciated and in need of medical attention."

"This lady has been running a dog training and boarding business for over 30 years, been very successful, everybody loves her to death. She takes good care of these dogs and cats."

Jenkins repeated claims of personal problems causing Justice to become overwhelmed and said there is no way Justice can possibly reimburse SPCA despite the agreement.

"She's had some personal problems that I can't go into right now because there's still a pending criminal case. She was just overwhelmed," he said.

Justice is facing a single class A misdemeanor charge of Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals.

"It could end up being a felony because of the sheer number of animals," Jenkins said.

Stephanie Knight, Communications Specialist for SPCA of Texas, told reporters after the hearing that animals were not being fed, watered or cared for properly.

"What we found was something that we would classify animal cruelty under the Texas Health and Safety Code. The animals were not getting fed properly or getting watered properly. They were not getting just the help and care they needed. They weren't getting what every pet needs. We came in and rescued all of them," Knight said.

Knight also stated that six owners and seven dogs were heading home Wednesday.

According to an ECSO press release following the July 23 raid, between 15 and 20 deceased animals were located on Justice's property.

Maximum K-9 was raided by the ECSO and SPCA after Sheriff's Deputies obtained a warrant following reports of horrendous odors emanating from the property.

"I noticed the horrendous smell of death even pulling up from out of the roadway," an anonymous tipster to the ECSO told Ellis County Citizen in an exclusive interview. "The smell outside was certainly just death. There was no mistaking it, it was death."

Maximum K-9 is located in the 200 block of Panorama Loop in Waxahachie.

Residents who believe their pet may have been at the Maximum K-9 facility can call SPCA at 214-461-1850 or send an email to investigations@spca.org.

Click on one of the links below to read our previous coverage of the raid on Maximum K-9.

Owners of missing pets encouraged to attend SPCA seizure hearing

Odors of death result in an ECSO and SPCA raid on dog training facility