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Commissioner to be charged with animal cruelty in seized cattle case, sheriff says

Cattle seized from Billy Wall's ranch in Burnet County

Two cowhands were paid to round up 79 head of cattle from Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall’s ranch on Sept. 8. The cowboys were assisted by deputies from Burnet and Williamson counties. The animals were seized by Burnet County after complaints of malnourishment. Wall has forfeited the herd to the county. Courtesy photo

Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall will face Class A misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals after his cattle were seized following accusations of malnourishment. The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office will file the charges, Sheriff Calvin Boyd said. The question is when.

“We’ve already decided,” Boyd said when asked about criminal charges. “There will be criminal charges. I’m just not sure when we’re moving forward with it.” 

A herd of 79 cattle was seized from Wall’s property on Sept. 8 after an investigation into public complaints that the animals were malnourished. They are being kept at the Burnet County Fairgrounds in Burnet.

Wall and his attorney, Eddie Shell, announced an agreement with the county on Sept. 30 to forfeit the cattle to the county, which can sell them and use the proceeds to pay for the estimated $32,853.94 spent so far on their care. Any money collected over the cost of moving and tending the herd would go to Wall.

“There’s not going to be enough to cover that bill,” Boyd said. “Wall will have to pay restitution.”

The agreement states that Wall will have to pay the county the difference if sales do not exceed the cost.

Although Wall said through his attorney that the cattle would go to auction the week of Oct. 3, Boyd said the herd was not in good enough shape to be moved again. 

“They are still at the fairgrounds,” he said. “They are not strong enough or well enough to transport, but they are doing much better.” 

In a statement Friday, Shell said the county should not have moved the cattle for the same reason but also because of expenses, which included $3,800 for two contract cowboys who used horses, dogs, and deputies on four-wheelers and ATVs to herd and load the animals. 

“At least one of the cows was killed during this operation and four more died while the animals were in the custody of Burnet County,” Shell said in the statement. “Before all the cowboys and deputies converged on his ranch, Mr. Wall offered to leave the cattle on his ranch under the supervision of the county or designated agent of the county to oversee them until a resolution was reached. The county did not accept Mr. Wall’s offer.” 

Leaving the cattle where they were was not an option, Boyd said. 

“I don’t want to influence a pending case, but it was a better option to move the cows,” Boyd said. 

Williamson County is handling the prosecution of any charges filed because Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo recused himself and his staff from the case. Arredondo is representing Wall in another case involving voting machines, which has been sent to the Third Court of Appeals. He cannot legally defend and prosecute the same person. 

For now, the county is working on the logistics of how to sell the cattle. 

“We’re trying to figure out the best way to do it,” Boyd said. “We don’t have large cattle trailers. We’ve not decided whether to move them to an auction barn or set something up here for people to bid on the cows.”