Woman who had 237 cats expected to plead no contest

Photo from when the cats were seized in March of 2011

The woman who kept 237 cats inside a storage unit is expected to plead no contest to violating an Horry County ordinance.

Last March, Horry County seized 237 cats and one dog from the care of the Sacred Animal Vision Animal Sanctuary run by Elizabeth Owen.

Owen is charged with violating the county's Care and Treatment of Animals ordinance. Tuesday, she is scheduled to appear in an Horry County courtroom.

Owen's attorney, Greg McCollum, said his client will plead by affidavit.

"She was just worn down and doesn't have the strength to continue," said McCollum. "We were prepared to go to trial, but I was not going to make her go to trial if she didn't want to."

Horry County Assistant Solicitor Lauree Richardson also expects Owen to plead no contest Tuesday. Richardson said Owen is charged with a misdemeanor.

"She is facing up to a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail," said Richardson. "In lew of 30 days, she could face 30 days public service instead."

After the cats were seized last March, veterinarians euthanized 107 of them. According to Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier, the cats suffered from "multiple medical conditions which included the following: severe infestation of herpes and ringworm, anal maggots, severe gum disease and missing teeth, tumors/lesions, multiple abdominal abscesses, seizures, cracked/bloody pads on feet, etc."

101 of the cats were treated with antibiotics for conditions like runny noses and eyes, ulcers, hair loss, and being underweight. They were offered up for adoption once they were healthy.

Horry County released 29 of the cats and a dog back to Owen, after Horry County's veterinarian examined them. Owen said they were her personal pets.

Horry County Solicitor Gregg Hembree asked for the cats to be removed after getting reports from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA said the cats were not being cared for properly, causing them health problems and in some cases death.

"She(Owen) was worried about the publicity that PETA created toward her," said McCollum. "She doesn't want to sit in court, which creates a lot of stress for people."

We will be in the courtroom for the hearing Tuesday and provide updates.