Strange Hoarding Case Leads To Arrests In Laurens, SC

By Elisa Black-Taylor

There’s an animal hoarding situation coming to an end less than an hours drive from where Laura and I live. I’m not even sure whether I should call it hoarding since almost all of the animals were dead. It happened in Laurens, SC-a small close-knit southern town. I heard about this on the news, and did an article which can be found here.


This incident involving animal hoarding is different than any I’ve ever heard of. When I caught the story on the late news, it told of how Rebecca Keith and her daughters Amanda and Sara were keeping dead animals inside the home and on the property. Not only were there dogs and cats, there were birds, deer and horses. There were animals found in the freezer and refrigerator, which was really horrible since the electricity had been cut to the house a few months ago. Apparently the ladies couldn’t pay the power bill or the rent. This is how they were discovered in the first place. Lauren’s County Sheriff’s Department had served an eviction notice given by landlord Jason English. The situation was discovered on the return visit by law enforcement to be sure the ladies were preparing to leave the property. They could smell the dead animals and investigated.

The ladies are debating the fact that at least 80 animals were found dead inside the house and outside around the property. Apparently there were still some live animals living there, since there was feces and urine on the floor. Several malnourished horses had to be transported to a local horse rescue, and animals were found dead in bowls and garbage bags found on the property.

Now for what I find strange. The three women had been transporting the animals with them whenever they moved from one residence to another. They couldn’t bear to part with any of their beloved pets. So instead of burying them, they put them in bags and such and kept them in freezers. They told a news reporter for WSPA7 that they couldn’t bear to part with them, so they would move the dead pets when they themselves went to a new residence. They also say there were only 20 dead animals on the property instead of 80 as told by the local media. Some of the animals had been dead for more than seven months.

I don’t know what their explanation is for all the animal carcasses found outside. The ladies said on camera that their veterinarian told them it was legal to keep dead animals in the freezer. I hope he wasn’t aware how many were frozen, or that the house had no electricity. The conditions of the freezer/refrigerator were horrible. Maggots and flies covered everything, and this is also where the family kept food they were eating.

The women were arrested for mistreatment of animals, as well as improper disposal of an animal. They have now been released on bond and were allowed to return to the home just long enough to gather personal possessions. The property owner is now left with the nasty job of cleaning up the property.

This isn’t the only time the Keith women have been trouble with the law for animal cruelty. The home they were living in back in 2006 was destroyed in a fire. At that time, emergency personnel discovered a hoarding situation/mistreatment of animals and the ladies were arrested for that offense.

I know this story is upsetting. I haven’t covered the horror stories on PoC for a long time, as the readers decided awhile back they don’t want to read about animal abuse any more than they have to. But this story is different. I’ve never heard of keeping dozens of dead animals just because the owner can’t bear the part of leaving them behind when they move. It was jaw-dropping to hear the ladies explain to news reporters of how it was an act of love to keep the dead bodies near them. These ladies seem convinced there’s nothing wrong about what they did. They also offered no explanation for what killed all of the animals outside the house. Most likely neglect.

What do the readers here think of this case?


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Strange Hoarding Case Leads To Arrests In Laurens, SC — 13 Comments

    • Go to the WSPA website and see if you can find the video. It may be linked into the Examiner article mentioned at the beginning of the article. They showed it on the late news here. The ladies are wanting the dead animals back so they can take them to their next home. This is one of the few cases that left me speechless. Hoarding is one thing and animal cruelty is one thing but I have no idea what to call this.

  1. It’s case of mental illness. People’s loved ones die all the time, husbands, wives, children, but the bereaved don’t keep them in a plastic bag. Throughout the history of the human species the dead have always been buried for very good reasons. To diverge from this indicates a mental illness.

  2. If you want to keep your pets close after they die you cremate them. My dog Dreyfuss lives in an urn on my night table. The news channel says they’re going to dig deeper into this. That they have a prior record of abuse leads me to think the pets likely starved to death. If you don’t have rent money or money to pay the power bill then you likely don’t have pet food either.

  3. How many people keep the remains of their loved-ones in urns on their mantles? How many wealthy land-owners make their own mausoleums to be near the decaying remains of their dear-departed from centuries ago? Why do communities have cemeteries so the descendents can visit the graves often? Some people even have their pets made into stuffed-mounts so their dogs and cats can still stand or sit proud next to the fireplace. Why do the Egyptian pyramids exist? This is just another aspect of human behavior. I don’t agree with any of it, I think this is all signs of mental-illness. But when put into perspective of all the other ways that humans want to be near their departed, it makes sense for a family that has no home and land of their own where they can erect a stone mausoleum or pyramid that will withstand the centuries outside their windows for generations to come.

    • People sometimes do keep their dead cats near to them. I do. I keep my cats’ ashes in an urn in my home. I feel it is normal and sensible but not a sign of mental illness. There is an emotional and spiritual context here, which you seem to be ignoring. Some people who have loved their cats don’t want their ashes dispersed and gone for ever. What is wrong with keeping them? It is emotionally comforting. We have to respect our emotions.

      However, it is wrong to keep the whole body of lots of cats and other animals in a freezer and then move them around as Elisa describes. That is unbalanced, unhygienic and impractical. It is generally agreed that cat hoarders have mental issues. They are not “mad”, they just have emotional and mental problems which are manifest in what normal people see as strange behavior and behavior that is against the principles of good cat welfare and commonsense. Cat hoarders are an example of how people can abuse cats.

    • Woody – sometimes you can be interesting and a little unexpected. It’s a shame about the rudeness because it gets in the way of having a real conversation.

  4. People do keep some possessions of their dead pets as a memory, most common being the Pets Ashes” and if wealthy or willing to spend exorbitant money ,a stuffed or mummified preservation of your pet.These ladies are definitely mentally unbalanced to resort in such behaviour and as they say, this could happen only in America!

    • ….this could happen only in America

      That is a good point. Whenever I read about cat hoarding on the internet it is nearly always from America. I would bet it never happens in India or other Asian counties. We do get cat hoarders in the UK but they must be rare because we never or hardly ever get news stories about them.

      If it is an American phenomenon, the question is why? Any ideas?

      • Its the place with the most and the cheapest and the easiest – it makes people a bit nuts sometimes and they usually have enough space to get away with it (and they can buy a gun on craigslist without even having a name)

  5. These poor women (as well as other animal hoarders) need psychiatric/spiritual help. Keeping dead bodies isn’t, in my opinion, morally acceptable. Being physically unable to dig a grave for a beloved cat, I did keep him in the freezer until I found someone willing to dig the grave for me, as I don’t believe in throwing them out with the trash is a proper way to show respect for life. As for keeping cremated or taxidermic remains…I’m on the fence…I personally would rather keep the memories with photographs than suffer the heartache of constantly seeing a physical monument to the loss. The body expires, but the spirit lives on in the hearts of loved ones.

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