By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A Canoe man remained in the Escambia County Detention Center under a $100,000 bond this week, charged with the starvation of at least 28 cats and dogs on his property.
Billy Earl Ellis, 53, of a Randolph Avenue address, is currently jailed on 10 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. His property is located directly behind Escambia Academy.
The criminal charges were filed when Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson and several deputies went to the site on March 5 in response to numerous complaints about the state of the property and the condition of the animals that were kept there, including that the cats and dogs “had been starved, with their rib cage protruding under their skin.”
Jackson said it was not the first, but was quite possibly the worst, such incident he had ever witnessed. It was also not the first time the unkempt state of the Ellis property had drawn lawmen there.
“I’ve dealt with this type of situation numerous times in the past, but this is probably the worst case I’ve ever seen,” the sheriff said. “(Ellis) had gotten in trouble with the county back in 2012 because of how filthy his property was, and the county went through the court process to try and get the property cleaned up. That’s what led us over there this time, reports that the property was nasty and filthy and there were animals starving there.”
The emaciated animals were shy of human interaction, and only six were taken away on March 5. ECSO personnel, accompanied by animal control officers from Atmore, went back to the property last week and lured the animals from underneath the house with food. The total of rescued animals topped out at 11 cats, 14 adult dogs and three puppies, said Jackson.
The sheriff said more charges were pending against Ellis, since one of the dogs died in surgery last week. The canines are being housed at Brewton Animal Control.
“The suspect signed the dogs over to the sheriff’s office, and Paws Crossed (Dog Rescue) is trying to help us find homes for them,” he said.
According to the group’s Facebook page, donations of money or food may be arranged by calling 251-867-4355 or by donating through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.