Officials in South Carolina Delay While Hundreds of Cats Suffer at Hoarder's Hands

Action Alerts

Moving people toward compassionate living

Your letters and calls do help!

Originally Posted: 4 Oct 2010

Officials in South Carolina Delay While Hundreds of Cats Suffer at Hoarder's Hands

FROM People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)


Please contact Horry County officials and let them know that there is no justification for any further delays—the animals at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) have suffered long enough. Urge officials to do the right thing—ask them to remove all animals from SVAS' custody without delay and to prosecute the parties responsible for the animals' suffering.

Sign an online petition


In July, PETA was notified of Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS), an animal "rescue" located near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Reports indicate that as many as 300 cats and several dogs at this facility are regularly deprived of veterinary care and kept in two filthy, severely crowded storage units that are disease-ridden and that reek of ammonia from the animals' accumulated waste. Cats at SVAS are stacked on top of one another in tiny wire crates and have no room to stretch or walk around—let alone exercise. Weeks' worth of evidence makes it clear that SVAS operator Elizabeth Owen does not keep up with cleaning tasks. Litterboxes and cages at the facility regularly overflow with feces and contaminated food. Many of the animals at SVAS suffer from a wide array of debilitating, painful illnesses and dangerous parasites. Several cats have advanced infections that severely limit the animals' ability to eat, breathe, and/or see. Sick cats are caged with or next to uninfected cats and allowed to roam freely through the premises, further spreading contagious diseases and what is already a severe flea infestation that's been allowed to worsen. According to SVAS' own website, some of these animals have been constantly caged for their entire lives. The cats imprisoned at SVAS have no quality of life and no hope of recovery in these filthy, disgusting, and cruel conditions.

PETA notified Horry County officials, who have jurisdiction to hold SVAS accountable, immediately upon receipt of the initial allegations. Six extremely sick cats were seized, and a dying cat named Elvis—who had been allowed to suffer from a ruptured facial tumor for weeks—was finally euthanized at a local veterinary clinic. Citations were issued, and even though county officials later told PETA that Owen was found guilty on these charges, court records indicate that the case was dismissed! Officials assured PETA that they would closely monitor conditions at SVAS and that the facility had agreed to close its doors and stop taking in animals.

But within a few short weeks, PETA received additional complaints and corroborating photos alleging that the facility remained filth-ridden and unsanitary and that animals continued to suffer from untreated conditions (such as eye irritation, upper respiratory infection, hair loss, eye discharge and more). PETA once again notified officials, and a veterinarian was asked to examine the animals. Owen hid some of the worst cases during the officials' visit, but the inspecting veterinarian saw plenty of cases of terrible suffering and stated the following in an official report to county officials:

  • The kennels were unorganized and dirty …
  • There was a black cat in one of the cages that appears to have a rupture of cornea of the left eye.…
  • Many of the cats that are free to roam have blepharospasm, excessive tearing, and conjunctivitis. There is much sneezing going on in and out of the cages. …
  • There is a white cat in a kennel that is very emaciated and dehydrated on appearance. There is a room with a bed and at least 3 cats present, that have food all over the floor and the litter pan does not appear as if it has been cleaned in days. …
  • [There is] a very thin cat in a cage with a more labored breathing on appearance and abnormal swelling and discharge to right side of face along mandible. It was opening and closing its mouth as if something was irritating to the right side.
  • [Another] cat that was in a cage just 5-7 feet away … was hyper-salivating (which is usually a sign of nausea or some [type] of oral infection or problem). The animal appeared very lethargic.
  • There were [cats who] have respiratory symptoms climbing on top of the sick cat's cage ….
  • I asked if the sick cats have been to the veterinarian for evaluation. [Owen] stated, 'Not in at least a year, due to finances.' I told her that these sick animals need to be seen by a veterinarian. …

In my professional opinion, this owner/caretaker is not providing adequate care to all of the animals in this facility. There is great concern for the environmental contamination with ammonia, infection, and parasites. It does not appear [Owen] has the man power or resources to rectify this situation in a timely manner. There is great concern with the current respiratory infections, due to bacteria, virus, fungal, and/or chemical, that all cats are in danger of suffering within a reasonable amount of time. This owner does not understand the need and importance for medical attention required by a veterinarian ….

The veterinarian's report was provided to county officials on September 1—almost a month ago! PETA once again urged officials to act quickly to secure the welfare of the animals at SVAS and even offered to assist the county by providing financial resources and volunteers. Despite the clear urgency of the situation, no cats were seized, no court date was expedited, and Owen was not even ordered to provide emergency veterinary care for the cats in imminent danger of dying.

Hearings on this case have been delayed, and on September 23, Owen requested a jury trial, causing yet another delay. To make matters worse, sources indicate that the police officers assigned to this case have expressed extreme sympathy for SVAS and Owen, opposed other county agencies' involvement in the matter, and indicated that if PETA were not involved, the latest charges would have been dismissed altogether. SVAS' victims need your help today.

Thank you for everything you do for animals!