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Hundreds of Cats Suffer and Die at Hoarder’s Warehouse

Update: After receiving evidence from PETA’s six-month undercover investigation at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary, Judge Bradley Mayers ordered the removal of all animals from the facility. Roughly 240 cats and an arthritic dog were seized from Elizabeth Owen by order of a Horry County judge. But after Owen’s attorney told the judge that 30 cats and the dog were Owen’s “personal pets,” the judge agreed to have those unfortunate animals returned to Owen’s custody.

Roughly half the cats who were seized were put out of their misery because of conditions such as anal maggots, herpes, ringworm, tumors, seizures, multiple abdominal abscesses, cracked and bloody paw pads, severe gum disease and missing teeth, and more—all things that cause pain and discomfort and none of which happen overnight. These cats had long been languishing with no quality of life. For them, death was release from a bad life of confinement, stress, and pain.

The 101 cats who remain in the county’s temporary shelter facility are also sick. The county is providing veterinary care for them. For more details, click here. More information regarding these new developments will be made available in the coming days.

A PETA undercover investigation—prompted by a whistleblower report—exposed the chronic deprivation and suffering of approximately 300 cats being kept in filthy, stifling, dungeon-like, disease-ridden storage units at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

There are no signs directing potential adopters to the so-called “sanctuary,” which is hidden behind a church in an industrial area and consists of an unventilated storage facility, which is crammed with stacks of crates and carriers. Some of the cats at SVAS have endured such conditions for months, but most have been confined here for years.

The majority of the cats are kept caged 24/7 in wire crates, most of which contain two to four cats each. Only one litterbox is provided per cage, and cats—who are naturally fastidiously clean—have no way to escape the sight and smell of the overflowing piles of feces and urine. The caged cats are denied everything that is natural and important to them—they have no room to stretch or walk around, let alone explore or exercise. See photos from the investigation now.

Running out of litter and food is a virtually daily occurrence at SVAS, whose operator, Elizabeth Owen, employs no paid staff. Owen herself does little, if any, caretaking or cleaning and spends most of her time tinkering in a thrift store that she runs next door. Owen often hides cats who are visibly ill or injured and in need of veterinary care in the thrift store.

Over the last few months, PETA’s investigator documented Owen’s systematic failure to provide veterinary care to numerous sick and injured cats, many of whom suffered prolonged agonizing deaths as a result. A volunteer at SVAS told PETA’s investigator that over the years, she had buried “at least 100″ cats who had died at the facility.

PETA first reported Owen to law-enforcement authorities in July 2010, at which time PETA was assured that Owen would “close” her facility once all the cats were adopted. However, Owen has made no effort to find homes for the cats (she has not even put a sign out by the road to indicate that the cats are in need of homes!), choosing instead to keep “storing” the animals and depriving them any quality of life.

In September, Owen was charged with violating Horry County’s animal care and treatment ordinance after PETA brought the conditions at SVAS to officials’ attention a second time. No cats were seized, however, and the case has been continued four times since, leaving the animals to suffer day after day. Recently, Owen, who has shown every indication that she is an animal hoarder, rejected an offer for free veterinary examinations and adoption opportunities for the cats as part of a consent agreement that was presented to her.

Please take a moment to send an e-mail to Solicitor Greg Hembree. Thank him for pursuing the seizure of animals from Owen and her storage units. Respectfully let him know that he has your support in seeking criminal charges of cruelty to animals against Owen.

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