People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Horry County police and the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office have been investigating the Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (http://www.svanimals.com/) for more than six months.
Last November, NewsChannel 15 reported Elizabeth Owen, the sanctuary's owner, was granted a jury trial on charges against her for the treatment of the more than 300 cats.
In a written statement, Owen told NewsChannel 15 the charges against her are "heartbreaking." She says, "Our animals are healthy, well fed, spayed/neutered and ready for permanent, indoor loving homes."
In a news conference Thursday, PETA announced it sent someone disguised as a volunteer inside the building to document the conditions. "This is a criminal case for cruelty to animals, and they're allowing this to go on. You don't let a perpetrator get away with child abuse just because they say they love their kids," said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA VP Cruelty Investigation.
The undercover video shows cats having seizures and cats with upper respiratory infections. PETA says some of the cats were so sick they were close to dying.
PETA accuses Horry County is dragging its feet. But 15th Circuit Solictor Greg Hembree says they can't do anything about the animals until owen goes to trial. He says the new information could hurt PETA's cause. "Could this been resolved earlier? Yes. Now we run the risk of delay because we have new information and we have to process that in consideration for this case."
Greg McCollum is Owen's defense lawyer. He says the video, though disturbing, shows just a few occurences of unhealthy cats over months of PETA's investigation. And, he says, with hundreds of cats, the probability of the occasional unhealthy cat is high. "What's at issue here is that PETA, their intention is to force the county to seize those 200 something cats, stick a needle in them and euthanize them."
Which leaves both sides at opposite ends, fighting for the care of the same animals.
Solicitor Hembree said Owen is able to care for the 300 cats while the case is ongoing because the judge saw no reason to move the animals.