Alleged cat hoarder sentenced to community service

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - An animal sanctuary owner accused of hoarding hundreds of cats was sentenced to 30 days of community service Tuesday.

Elizabeth Owen was cited for violating Horry County's animal care and treatment ordinance in September 2010. While she was not present before an Horry County magistrate judge on Tuesday, she pleaded no contest through her attorney for failing to provide proper treatment for animals.

Judge Margie Livingston sentenced Owen to ­a $500 fine or 30 days in jail suspended to 30 days public service.

Months after charges were brought against Owen, Horry County seized nearly 300 cats from the Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary. The non-profit sanctuary was operated and owned by Owen.

According to PETA representatives, the group secretly documented conditions of the cats at the Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary for six months. They said the nearly 300 cats were being kept in wire crates in dark, unventilated storage units.

However, on Tuesday, Owen's lawyer Gregory McCollum maintained she was taking care of the animals to the best of her ability.

"Her shelter days are definitely over. She thought she was doing the right thing and it just ended very badly for her," McCollum said.

Following the seizure, Horry County officials revealed approximately 107 cats were euthanized by a veterinarian after suffering from severe health problems, including anal maggots, seizures, lesions, herpes, ringworm and severe gum disease.

"The big thing's that the cats are no longer suffering in those stifling, despicable and disgusting storage sheds where many of them lived for years," Daphna Nachminovitch, vice president of cruelty investigations for PETA, said after Tuesday's hearing.

Officials released 29 cats and a dog back into the custody of Owen after the seizure and attempted to adopt the rest out to new families.

WMBF News has learned Owen has moved out of the area because of the attention brought to the case. A judge ordered she must complete her community service within 45 days.

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