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      Animal advocates worry about overcrowding at cat sanctuary

      The Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary has been charged by Horry County with improper care and treatment of animals. / Joel Allen

      Local animal advocates worry about what will happen to hundreds of cats living in a sanctuary they consider to be overcrowded. The Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary has been charged by Horry County with improper care and treatment of animals.

      The owner of the sanctuary has asked for a jury trial, and while her case makes its way through the court system, animal advocates worry about what will happen to her cats.

      Elizabeth Owen runs the Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary near Socastee and a thrift shop next door that she uses as a fundraiser for the sanctuary. Owen wouldn't allow us to shoot video of the sanctuary and declined to talk to us on camera. But in a written statement, she said the charges against her are "heartbreaking." She says, "Our animals are healthy, well fed, spayed/neutered and ready for permanent, indoor loving homes."

      Linda Loud, a former volunteer at the non-profit sanctuary, begs to differ. "There were sick animals that weren't being taken to a vet or being treated that should have been."

      Loud says there was barely adequate ventilation in the metal building where the cats are housed, and she doubts the animals ever get checked by a veterinarian. "I saw some pretty sick animals there that, it was disgusting."

      Loud believes Owen started the shelter with good intentions, but soon became overwhelmed. Loud and other former volunteers say PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, offered to help care for the shelter's nearly 300 cats.

      Owen says, "The only help they offered was to pay to euthanize all of our cats."

      While Owen's case waits for a trial date, Loud worries about the cats, because the judge in the case is allowing Owen to continue to care for them. "We can't do anything. We can't go in and take out the sick ones. We can't help any of them, which is sad."

      Horry County Police now check the sanctuary on a weekly basis for potential violations.

      A former volunteer says that's not good enough, that veterinarians ought to be called in to check it as well.

      No trial date has been set for the sanctuary case. Advocates have been told, it could take up to six months.

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