Nearly One Year After Seizure of Hundreds of Sick and Dying Cats, State Cruelty Charges Have Yet to Be Filed, Which PETA Calls ‘Astounding’

Myrtle Beach, S.C. — A year after receiving video footage and other evidence from PETA’s undercover investigation documenting systematic, severe, and often fatal neglect of cats at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS), a hoarding facility just outside Myrtle Beach, the office of 15th Circuit Solicitor J. Gregory Hembree has yet to get around to filing cruelty-to-animals charges against former SVAS operator Elizabeth Owen. This morning, PETA posted an action alert on its popular website asking people to contact Hembree and urge him to file appropriate charges against Owen. No other jurisdiction has ever taken this long to file charges based on PETA’s evidence against a suspect still in possession of animals, and PETA worries that this failure to take action could put more animals at risk. In March 2011, Horry County Judge Bradley Mayers ordered the seizure of approximately 240 cats and a dog from Owen. Dozens of those cats were suffering from painful conditions, such as anal maggots, herpes, tumors, seizures, abdominal abscesses, severe gum disease, and more. Nearly half of the cats were in such poor condition that they had to be euthanized to alleviate their suffering.

“While Mr. Hembree’s office twiddles its thumbs, PETA is concerned that Owen could be setting up a new shop of horrors,” says PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “The court left approximately 30 cats and a dog with Owen, but the county has made no effort to ensure that animals aren’t still suffering at her hands.”

Horry County officials have failed to ensure Owen’s compliance with the almost year-old order that she provide necessary veterinary care to the arthritic dog and the approximately 30 cats who were returned to her after her attorney told the court that they were her “personal pets.” While Owen has moved and apparently taken these animals with her, it is believed that she is still in Horry County.

PETA’s evidence shows that Owen knowingly deprived suffering cats of veterinary care—even refusing offers of free emergency veterinary care for dying cats—and that she stated she would rather let the cats die at the facility than have them taken by officials. Owen was charged with violating Horry County’s animal care and treatment ordinance in September 2010. That case has been continued four times since and is yet to be scheduled for trial.