Ten days ago, Kitty News Network reported on deplorable conditions at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) in Myrtle Beach, S.C., animal sanctuary. An undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had revealed images of sick cats, overflowing litter boxes, and cats left un-tended while having violent seizures.
The footage led Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree to ask a judge to remove the animals from the care of sanctuary owner Elizabeth Owen. Last Tuesday, the judge granted a temporary order for emergency care, and authorities seized 237 cats and one dog from SVAS.
The animals were examined by a licensed veterinarian, who found that virtually all of the cats were suffering from a variety of medical conditions.
“A lot of the ailments were very visible,” Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said last Thursday. “A lot were having seizures.”
The veterinarian euthanized 107 of the cats because they were suffering from from multiple severe medical conditions including massive infestations of herpes and ringworm, anal maggots, severe gum disease and missing teeth, tumors or lesions, multiple abdominal abscesses, seizures, and cracked and bloody pads on their feet.
Twenty-nine of the cats and the dog were returned to Owen after it was determined that they were her personal pets.
The county is housing and treating the remaining 101 cats at a special shelter set up in a county building usually used for beach service storage. For health reasons, the Sacred Vision cats were not mixed in with the cats currently at the Horry County shelter.
On Thursday, Owen toured the Socastee facility where the cats are now being housed. County officials showed her that the cats were being cared for and their medical conditions treated.
Owen’s attorney, Greg McCollum, said Friday that his client is very upset about the animals being euthanized.
“She’s obviously very disappointed that so many animals were killed,” McCollum said. “She devoted so much time and energy to save these animals.”
McCollum said Owen is “grateful” that the judge allowed her to get 29 cats and a dog back.
“She’s out of the rescue business because of all of this,” McCollum said.
The county is still doing additional testing on the remaining cats, many of whom are underweight and have medical issues such as runny noses and eyes, ulcers, and hair loss. They are being treated with strong antibiotics, Bourcier said.
On each cage in the wide-open room where the cats are being kept, there is a sticky note detailing the cat’s current condition. A video taken by The Sun News showed one of these notes, which read, “Tapeworms, eye inflammation, crusty eyes, slight gum inflammation.”
Employees from the Horry County Animal Care Center are dividing time between the county’s main facility in Conway and the holding facility.
“The cats are being cared for 7 days a week, just like at our shelter,” Bourcier said. “The staff is split between both locations.”
The county is also using inmate labor for cleaning at the special shelter, officials said.
Owen’s trial date has not been set. The cats cannot be adopted or returned to Owen until the trial is settled. Bourcier said it the prosecutor and/or the judge will decide whether Owen should pay restitution for the animals’ care.