2 plead guilty to mistreatment after 25 cats rescued from trailer

Debra Elaine Goulding (Source: Myrtle Beach Police Department)
Debra Elaine Goulding (Source: Myrtle Beach Police Department)
William Joseph Goulding (Source: Myrtle Beach Police Department)
William Joseph Goulding (Source: Myrtle Beach Police Department)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Two people pleaded guilty Wednesday to 27 counts of mistreatment of animals after officers said they found 25 live and two deceased cats in a trailer with feces up to six inches thick in places.

Debra Elaine Goulding, 54, and William Joseph Goulding, 51, were sentenced to 30 days each in jail on each count, which is suspended upon them paying $1,420 in restitution to the Grand Strand Humane Society for costs incurred. The Gouldings are not allowed to own any animal for 30 days on each count of mistreatment, totaling 27 months.

The police report states that officers responded on October 25 to a report of a possibly abandoned trailer with around 30 cats inside, located at 600 Highway 15.

As the first officer approached the front door, he said he was immediately aware of a pungent odor from the house. The smell was so bad that he had to hold his breath to avoid inhaling it. He knocked on the door and heard the sound of a television. When no one responded, he turned the knob and the door opened. He said at this point, about ten-to-fifteen cats scattered. One cat by the door had an infected eye, and a dead kitten was lying on the couch. He said another kitten was so sick it couldn't run off, was emaciated and lethargic.

The officer said in the police report that there was a pregnant cat with both eyes closed shut from infection. "I saw what I was certain was cat feces caked on everything, all surfaces. The odor that came from the inside when the door opened was so strong it caused me to gag, and I had to turn away to get a breath."

The officer proceeded to enter the residence to check if there was an incapacitated or deceased inhabitant, but found no one. Three officers collected 12 cats and the deceased kitten into their custody and left the house to get a search warrant because there were so many cats left.

The officer said when they returned there was a dead cat that had been closed shut in the woodwork of a recliner. It was almost unrecognizable because of its mangled shape and had been there so long it was "wood-like", and its hide was disintegrating.

One cat escaped through a broken window, and another described as black with a severe skin infection hid and officers were not able to find it. Thirteen more cats, including the deceased cat inside the recliner were collected, to total 25 live cats and two deceased. 

There was a bedroom that officers said was obviously current living quarters for the residents. There were pillows shoved against the bedroom door to curb the odor. The bedroom smelled normal and was relatively clean compared to the rest of the home.

The cats were taken to the Grand Strand Humane Society where they were evaluated by the veterinarian and technicians. A profile was created for each cat. It was deemed that 14 of the cats were too sick to be considered untreatable and were euthanized. The remaining 11 needed treatment but were not considered to be suffering or untreatable.

The police report also mentioned an old German Shepherd in the yard who was weary of the officers, but appeared to be in "fine" health. The officer said when he first approached the dog it went underneath the house.

On November 3, police arrested Debra and William Goulding.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.