Written by Jeff Mackey
A measure of justice has been served in South
Carolina, where, following
PETA's undercover investigation, the
woman who fatally neglected cats at the now-thankfully defunct Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) outside Myrtle Beach was convicted of violating a county animal-care
ordinance this morning before Magistrate Margie Bellamy Livingston. Elizabeth Owen,
who didn't even bother to show up but instead submitted her plea in writing,
was fined $500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, but both were suspended.
In March 2011, a Horry County judge ordered the seizure of a dog and approximately 240 cats from Owen—many of whom were suffering from
painful conditions, such as anal maggots, herpes, tumors, seizures, abdominal
abscesses, and severe gum disease. Nearly half of the animals had to be
euthanized to alleviate their suffering.
officials returned the dog and 30 cats to Owen. And then it got worse: County officials
did not make good on promises to check on those animals'
welfare. Meanwhile, Owen left the state—in violation of her bond, according to
a prosecutor—and evidently took those animals with her. Although PETA's
investigatory evidence was passed between four attorneys in the 15th Circuit
Solicitor's Office, none of them filed state cruelty-to-animals charges against
Owen. No other jurisdiction has ever failed to file
charges based on such strong evidence against a hoarder still in possession of
As with many so-called "no-kill" operations, SVAS was merely a cover for an animal hoarder. Owen knowingly deprived suffering cats of veterinary care—even refusing offers
of free emergency treatment for dying cats—and stated that she would rather let
the cats die at the facility than have them taken by officials.
In a disturbing twist, just before most of her animals were
seized, Owen sent approximately 25 cats to Caboodle Ranch, another horrific "no-kill" cat "sanctuary,"
in Florida. Based on evidence gathered in a separate PETA investigation,
officials there seized
nearly 700 cats and arrested and charged Caboodle's founder and operator, Craig Grant, with
felony cruelty to animals.
recidivism rate for animal hoarders like Owen is virtually 100 percent. The
failure of Owen's sentence to prevent her from causing more animals to suffer
and die exposes a critical weakness in South Carolina law, which lacks a
commonsense provision—found in most other states' laws—prohibiting convicted
cruelty offenders from owning or possessing any animals.
Craig Grant and Caboodle Ranch continue to ask the public
for donations, including money to pay Grant's legal fees. Ask Florida officials
to cancel Caboodle's registration to solicit contributions.
Please join PETA in calling for legislation that would
enable all South Carolina courts to bar those convicted of cruelty from having
As viewers of the popular reality shows about hoarders can likely confirm, peering inside the homes of people who suffer from the psychological compulsion to collect things has a certain morbid attraction, until you realize the toll it takes on the families of the afflicted—and it's far worse when the "things" they're collecting are living, feeling beings.
Animal hoarding is a serious and growing problem, with hoarders taking on far more animals than they can properly care for. The number of reported cases is on the rise, leading the Animal Legal Defense Fund to call hoarding "the number one animal cruelty crisis facing companion animals in communities throughout the country."
Chillingly, the so-called "no kill" movement propagated by the likes of Nathan Winograd offers cover for these disturbed individuals, many of whom claim to be "rescuing" the animals and attempt to justify the suffering that they cause as a matter of principle. A Los Angeles Times blog post reported that a quarter of the roughly 6,000 new hoarding cases reported each year in the U.S. consist of supposed "shelters" and "rescues."
Animals kept in crates at a “no kill” shelter.
Even when rescues and animal shelters aren't hoarding animals themselves—like the self-proclaimed animal "hospice and rehabilitation center" called "Angel's Gate" and the now-defunct "Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary"—they all too often give away animals to anyone who will take them, including hoarders, to manipulate their euthanasia statistics, regardless of what tragedy that translates into for the animals.
Here are just a few recent examples:
The failure of "no kill" animal shelters and rescues to address the problems facing homeless animals—and often making matters worse—is why PETA remains focused on the solution to the animal overpopulation crisis: creating a no-birth nation. PETA's fleet of mobile low-cost veterinary clinics (responsible for sterilizing 10,564 animals in 2011 and almost 80,000 so far since 2001!) and our advocacy of strong spay-and-neuter legislation are key to keeping animals out of the hands of hoarders and other people who don't have their best interests at heart and guaranteeing that every animal born has a loving, permanent home awaiting him or her.
Volunteer to help your local animal shelter screen potential adopters and placement partners. Animal shelters can contact PETA for placement-partner applications and agreements. Please also be sure to spay or neuter your animal companions and encourage others to do the same—it's the best way to end the need for animal rescues altogether!
Lawmakers who are considering legislation based on the
philosophy of the bogus "no-kill" movement should look closely at the
disastrous results of California's Hayden Law, as Phyllis M. Daugherty details
in the first of a series of
articles for Opposing Views about limited-admission ("no-kill")
Dangerous overcrowding is a
common problem at no-kill shelters.
As Daugherty makes clear, the Hayden Law was put together by
lawyers and aides with no experience running animal shelters. And it shows: The
bill did nothing to curb breeding (the real cause of the animal overpopulation crisis);
it took away shelters' ability to make the critical decisions needed to keep
the animals healthy by controlling the spread of contagious diseases and to give
the most adoptable animals the best chance of finding a home through necessary
means, including euthanasia of less adoptable animals.
the Hayden Law, shelters couldn't euthanize the animals they took in unless the
animals were already to the point of death—even if that meant enduring prolonged
suffering from diseases or injuries
that made them unlikely prospects for adoption. Fortunately, this constraint
was recently suspended but not before wreaking havoc on animals, shelters (along
with their staffers and volunteers), and state budgets.
animal shelters continue to be required to surrender any animal scheduled for
euthanasia—no matter how aggressive or otherwise unadoptable—to any group claiming
to be a "rescue" organization upon request, which forces them to
continue to house the animals until they are claimed (up to two weeks later) and
puts adoptive guardians at risk from animals with a known tendency toward aggressive
behavior. Daugherty describes how 20 percent of one animal shelter was occupied
by pit bulls awaiting pickup by one such organization, leaving less room for animals
who might have had a good chance of adoption but instead were euthanized
because of a lack of space.
It is tragic and ironic that the law cheered on by misguided "no-kill"
advocates like Nathan
ended up costing animals their lives; Daugherty reports that the North County Times, in an article titled, "Too Close for
Comfort: New State Law Is Killing Animals," explained how the law was "increasing
the number of animals destroyed and reducing adoptions …"
While this is sad, it isn't really surprising. As Daugherty
notes, "no-kill" is a misnomer, since the refusal of
limited-admission shelters to accept the responsibility of euthanasia means
that they fill up quickly, leaving the turned-away animals to be taken to
open-admission shelters (merely shifting the burden of euthanasia) or, worse, to
be simply abandoned to face disease, traffic, starvation, predators, and other
Limited-admission shelters also tend to attract animal
hoarders who take in far more animals than they can possibly care for. PETA’s
undercover investigation of South Carolina's now-defunct Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary—which was
really just a front for a hoarder—produced
evidence that finally prompted authorities to rescue hundreds of caged cats who
had been suffering through a living nightmare of constant filth, disease, and
We all want to see the number of euthanized animals decreased,
but the Hayden Law debacle shows that this goal can't be accomplished just by
making it nearly impossible for shelters to use euthanasia to address the
current crisis. As one former shelter volunteer explained after visiting a shelter overburdened because
of the restrictions imposed by the Hayden Law, "As I passed the kennels,
each crammed with too many dogs and puppies, many of them sick or diseased, I
was reminded again that euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen."
To become a truly no-kill nation, we must first become a
no-birth nation by mandating
spaying and neutering of dogs and cats
to stop the flow of unwanted litters into our shelters. If you are concerned
about euthanasia, you'll do far more good by adopting a dog from an
open-admission shelter or sponsoring
a spay/neuter procedure for a cat than by supporting a limited-admission
California Gov. Jerry Brown has announced plans to completely repeal the ill-advised
Hayden Law, and let's hope he succeeds—for the animals' sake.
Written by PETA
When we rescued Nudge and Olaf from miserable conditions in South Carolina hoarding facility Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary, they were in desperate need of medical attention and love. Now, little more than a month later, they are healthy, playful, and enjoying their new homes.
Nudge's years spent in a cage are a distant memory as she runs and plays with her big brother, Tigger, in her new home with the parent of a PETA staffer. The two cats have become inseparable, and after playtime, they can often be found curled up in bed or watching TV together. Nudge's guardians say she is the perfect addition to the family.
PETA staffers were so charmed by Olaf that we couldn't bear to part with him. He's now an official office cat and spends his days bouncing from desk to desk and lap to lap. Despite a missing eye, a broken tail, and arthritic knees, he manages to keep everyone in line. He loves to play and cuddle with his fellow office cats, like Brandi, whom he's hanging out with in this picture:
If you are ready to open your home and heart to a new cat, visit the wonderful animals at your local shelter.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
We recently told you about 240 cats who were seized from Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as a result of our undercover investigation at the hoarding facility. Many of the cats were too ill to survive, and many more are receiving veterinary care at the county's temporary shelter. PETA was able to bring three of the surviving cats to our Norfolk, Virginia, office, and after much TLC, they are on the mend.
Nudge's name comes from her love of being petted, which she makes known by nudging the nearest available hand. She spent most or all of her approximately 10 years in a cage and is now experiencing her second kittenhood, playing with toys and exploring. Nudge is finally discovering her hobbies, including cuddling up on laps to take naps or watch TV and giving foot massages by kneading the blankets covering wiggling toes.
Olaf is a charming Southern senior gentleman who has overcome much adversity. He was confined to a cage for many years and now can't get enough attention, which he returns with nuzzles. At the time of his rescue, he was covered in scabs from an untreated flea allergy. His tail appears to have been broken in two places, and part of it is missing, along with his left eye. Olaf is now on the mend and is calm and curious. He loves fellow rescue Okay and snuggles with her often.
After a lot of care, Okay looks like she'll be better than OK once she finds her forever family. The 3- to 4-year-old tabby is recovering from severe conjunctivitis and an upper respiratory infection. Her view was limited to the walls outside her cage in a stifling warehouse, and she now cherishes windows and scenery. She purrs almost constantly while she's getting attention and soaks up all the love she can. She's also discovering what it's like to run and play, and she is getting good at hiding in blankets and chasing toys.
All three cats are sweet and affectionate, despite their ordeal. If you live near the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area and would like to be considered as a forever family for Nudge, Olaf, or Okay, please e-mail us for an adoption application—please put in the subject line, "Interested in Adopting SVAS Cats."
Written by Michelle Sherrow
Earlier this week, following PETA's undercover investigation of a Myrtle Beach–area hoarding facility that had been warehousing hundreds of cats and an arthritic dog named Hope in storage units, roughly 240 cats and the dog were seized from Elizabeth Owen by order of a Horry County judge. Roughly half the cats who were seized were so ill that they had to be put out of their misery.
The cats had been "stored," some for most or all of their lives, in filthy, cramped cages, unable to get away from their own waste or even stretch or walk, let alone enjoy life. Dozens of cats were suffering from chronic, painful conditions such as anal maggots, herpes, tumors, seizures, multiple abdominal abscesses, severe gum disease, and more. Some people are criticizing county officials for euthanizing the sickest cats, but the real outrage is that these cats had been allowed to suffer and languish for so long with no quality of life whatsoever. If the cats were too far gone to save, it is because of the long-term neglect that Owen subjected them to—neglect that merits state-level cruelty-to-animals charges and a prohibition on obtaining any more animals. Hoarders are notorious for starting back up where they left off if such judicial measures aren't taken.
Unfortunately, after Owen's attorney told the judge that Hope and about 30 of the cats were Owen's "personal pets," the judge agreed to have them returned to Owen's custody, following a medical exam by the county's contract veterinarian. Hope, who is old and suffering from painful arthritis, is mostly kept in one of the storage units in a small pen and on a cold, hard cement floor or tethered outside in front of the warehouse. Owen has been ordered to provide the animals with veterinary care at her own expense, but it remains to be seen if she will do so. Owen couldn't manage to keep the facility stocked with litter or food, let alone take ailing and even dying animals for veterinary care or euthanasia. Her current registration to solicit charitable funds has been suspended by the Office of the Secretary of State, which means she cannot lawfully solicit donations or items to sell in her thrift store. If the medical condition of the 107 cats whom the county was forced to euthanize are any indication, the 30 animals who went back to that hellhole are doomed.
Not surprisingly, the 101 feline survivors who remain in the county's temporary shelter facility are also sick. The county is providing veterinary care for them, and PETA is hopeful that once they recover, they will find happiness with responsible families who will give them all the love, attention, and catnip they need and deserve.
Written by Daphna Nachminovitch
This morning, after being presented with evidence—including video footage from PETA's investigation—making the case that animals warehoused in Elizabeth Owen's Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, storage units are in need of emergency intervention and care, Horry County Judge Bradley Mayers signed an order to seize custody and control of the animals because of animal neglect. The order requires officials to seize Owen's animals—a German shepherd named Hope and some 300 cats who have lived for months or years on end (some for their entire lives) in cages and crates stacked on top of each other at the "Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary."
The order reads, in part, "Sufficient evidence of a pattern of behavior wherein [Owen] fails to provide adequate veterinary care to ill and suffering animals has been established necessitating emergency care." According to one news story, "Judge Mayer [sic] said after reviewing evidence he would not feel comfortable allowing the animals to remain in Owen's care." We agree wholeheartedly.
The animals will be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian and sheltered. They will finally have a clean, soft spot to curl up, the ability to groom themselves without swallowing their own waste, room to stretch and walk about, and desperately needed veterinary attention. Future court hearings will determine when the animals can be offered for adoption and find the permanent, loving homes that they deserve and should have been afforded long ago. Judge Mayers' compassionate decision marks a long-overdue new beginning for these animals, many of whom have been caged in Owen's dungeon-like, stifling warehouse for years. Stay tuned for more updates on this case.
Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post
Update: After receiving evidence from PETA's six-month undercover investigation at Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary, Judge Bradley Mayers ordered the removal of all animals from the facility. More information regarding these new developments will be made available in the coming days.
Some 300 cats are suffering in filthy wire cages stacked inside dark, unventilated, ammonia-filled storage units at the grotesquely misnamed Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary (SVAS) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. PETA has submitted a formal complaint to the local prosecutor and is calling for the cats to be seized immediately.
Please take a moment to e-mail Horry County prosecutor Greg Hembree and politely ask him to pursue the seizure of all cats from SVAS and to file cruelty-to-animals charges against Elizabeth Owen.
Many of us have had a peek into the bizarre world of hoarding courtesy of reality television. Accumulating piles and piles of household junk is bad enough, but when hoarders collect living animals, the results are extreme neglect, suffering, and death.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), "It is likely that up to a quarter million animals—250,000 per year—are victims of hoarders. What's more, records kept by ALDF indicate that in the last four years, the number of reported hoarding cases has more than doubled. In terms of the number of animals affected and the degree and duration of their suffering, hoarding is the number one animal cruelty crisis facing companion animals in communities throughout the country."
Alarmingly, as a result of public pressure to avoid euthanasia at all costs, the hoarding mentality has infiltrated animal shelters. MSNBC.com reports that groups calling themselves "rescues" and "shelters" currently account for one-fourth of the estimated 6,000 new hoarding cases annually reported in the U.S. This is just one more way that trying to become "no-kill" before becoming "no-birth" hurts animals.
When animal shelters and rescue groups—such as South Carolina's terribly inaccurately named Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary—aren't themselves hoarding animals, they sometimes farm out animals to anyone who will take them, including hoarders, in order to reduce the number of animals they euthanize. Here are just two examples:
Please help keep animals out of hoarders' hands by volunteering to help your local animal shelter screen potential placement partners, rescue groups, and adopters. Contact PETA for free placement partner applications and agreements. Please also spay and neuter all your animal companions—it's the only real way to prevent animals from being born only to end up homeless or hoarded.
Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.