Sunday afternoon, Winter returned to Ellis’ residence at 200 Meadowview Road just north of Surgoinsville to find seven dogs still living in a 4-by-8 foot shed on top of 8-12 inches of feces that covered the entire floor.
The dogs were also in terrible health, suffering form coughs, cuts and rashes. Two were reportedly coughing up blood.
After Winter observed that no improvements had been made to the dogs’ living condition, he arrested Ellis, who was charged with cruelty to animals.
Winter initially responded to the Ellis residence on Jan. 29 around 12:30 a.m. after Ellis and his girlfriend had reportedly been arguing about the dogs he was keeping in his shed.
Ellis, 40, reportedly stated he wanted to get rid of the dogs but no shelter would take them.
“I told the suspect that he had to either give the dogs to a shelter or clean the shed he was keeping them in,” Winter stated in his report. “He stated to me that he would have them taken care of the next day and that he had taken off work to do so. I told the suspect I would be back to check on the dogs.”
On Sunday afternoon, Winter returned to the Ellis residence, where he allegedly found seven dogs in the shed.
“The floor of the shed had approximately 8-12 inches of feces covering the floor, and the base of the floor could not be seen due to the feces,” Winter said. “A strong odor of ammonia was coming from the shed.”
Winter added, “The dogs had severe rashes on their stomachs. The dogs had cuts and lacerations on their faces and bodies. I observed their fur was severely matted with feces. … Upon further inspection of the dogs, they were found to have severe cough and were wheezing. Two were spitting up blood and threw up. The dogs had very overgrown claws and had trouble walking.”
Hawkins County Humane Society staff members Haleigh Davidson and Melissa Cooper responded to the residence, and Ellis voluntarily surrendered the dogs to the shelter.
Ellis' girlfriend reportedly told Winter the dogs had been confined in the shed with no source of light for approximately two years.
HCHS Director Sandy Behnke said the dogs are being cleaned and groomed and treated for their health issues at the shelter.
Behnke said the dogs were aggressive, which is to be expected considering how they've been treated.
“I love working with little dogs that are aggressive,” Behnke said. “They just need to be socialized. Every day I sit outside their kennel and give a treat and get a little closer until I can get a leash on them and pull them closer. Eventually they build up trust and realize you're their friend.”
Ellis was released from the Hawkins County Jail on $1,000 bond and was scheduled for arraignment Monday morning in Hawkins County Sessions Court.