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cat.jpgThere’s an expression about how to deal with bad situations: when you’re stuck in a hole, stop digging. It’s a concept that hasn’t been embraced by Maury Swee, president of The 10th Life Sanctuary, Inc. in Hendry County.

A couple weeks ago, a video appeared on YouTube (click here to view) showing horrible conditions inside the “sanctuary.” The video shows cats in desperate need of veterinary care (10th Life does not have a veterinarian, or vet tech, on staff), among other problems.

The video caught the attention of investigative reporter Amy Oshier from NBC Ch. 2 (Fort Myers). This week, NBC2 investigators released a two-part report looking into allegations of animal neglect at 10th Life.

In a tax return filed in April 2008, 10th Life reported caring for over 1,200 cats. During Monday night’s report (click here), Maury said that there are now 600 cats at the property. When he was asked to explain what happened to 600+ cats, Maury said the animals “passed on,” and added, “It can happen in an environment like ours.” The deaths of 600 cats in less than two years is evidence that something is seriously wrong at 10th Life.

Part two of the investigative report aired last night (click here). Maury kept on digging his hole. He spoke to the camera and admitted that he conducts “experiments and scientific research” using cats at the sanctuary. The federal Animal Welfare Act requires that facilities using live cats in research must register with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 10th Life is not a licensed research facility. ARFF has contacted the USDA demanding immediate enforcement action against 10th Life.

Please contact NBC Ch. 2 and thank them for the excellent reporting by the NBC2 Investigators.

E-mail: comments@nbc-2.com
Phone: (239) 939-2020

24 Responses to “10th Life Sanctuary on its last life?”

  1. on 13 Nov 2009 at 1:17 pm Elssy Shallman

    I’m in shock and outraged! I have supported 10th Life each time Maury asks for money and I for sure will never support anyone who tests on animals and worse of all someone who took advantage of animal lovers’ trust and compassion.

  2. on 17 Nov 2009 at 11:44 pm Sasha

    ARFF, you have taught me a valuable lesson. There is a difference between animal rights and animal welfare and I will never support people like you ever again.

  3. on 18 Nov 2009 at 3:42 pm Lynn

    I did some research after the comment about the diiference between animal rights and animal welfare organizations. Boy, was I shocked! I have made the decision to pull my memberships and financial suppport from the fanatical animal rights orgs and give all my support to the welfare groups. I am disgusted at what actions the ‘rights’ groups are behind.

  4. on 20 Nov 2009 at 1:45 pm CS

    Maury may have gotten in over his head but only because he would not say no to a cat in need. The “research and scientific studies” he did was using off-label drugs on cats that were already sick in an effort to save their lives. This is something that many vets will do. Many drugs are not labeled for cats because the drug manufacturers do not want to spend the time and money to get them approved for cats - but they work just fine and we would lose many cats lives if our vet would not prescribe them off-label.

    You ARFF people seem to be more concerned with amking the world perfect instead of making it better.

  5. on 21 Nov 2009 at 12:48 am DFI

    I have been so scared of this guy for many years but have tried to do the best I could to help those cats there financially and with the help of supplies and still this is where they ended up. This guy recieved thousands of dollars several months ago from donations from an article done on CNN and where did that money go? Certainly not to food for the cats as they all were starving to death. I will have nightmares over this one this guy should be starved to death right along side of that money hungry wife of his. If he doesn’t go to jail then there is something wrong with our judicial system. He was experimenting on these poor helpless animals my god I can’t believe he could get away with that. Where was that worthless broad from Animal Control that was supposedly monitoring this creep? She should be fired and put in jail too.

  6. on 21 Nov 2009 at 9:11 am Lynn Laurenti

    I’ve known Maury Swee for years, and I can tell you that he’s a wonderful person with a heart of gold who’s devoted much of his life and a tremendous amount of his own money to rescuing unwanted cats and caring for them. His commitment to them is unequivocal. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a group of sustaining donors to support his mission. He had a vision of making 10th Life a model cat sanctuary nationwide, and I fully believe that he would have been able to accomplish this goal if more people had come forward to help him. This world needs more people like Maury Swee and his equally dedicated wife, Sandy.

  7. on 21 Nov 2009 at 10:02 am Carole Errico

    We brought a group fo cats to 10th Life several years ago. We were upset at what we saw and later heard and tried to buy them back but to no avail. Contacted everyone from animal control to State Senators to try to close him down.Animal control supported him and bragged she taught him how to put animals to sleep. We tried Zoning enforcement,his landlord but nothing helped. This man should be prosecuted to the very fullest. He is nothing but a con artist looking to make a fast buck!!!!

  8. on 25 Nov 2009 at 9:45 am Debbie

    OMG…a cat I fostered (only semi-feral)who had kittens was taken there….I can’t believe this….I am sick at heart. I would gladly take her back if I could only get my hands on her again. I feel like I signed her death warrant myself, though the orgainzation I foster for was the one who took her there….forgive me, darling Portia….

  9. on 26 Nov 2009 at 10:28 pm Erin

    Debbie,
    Call Hendry county animal control. You can get your cat back if she is still there and you can go and identify her. They are trying very hard to return the remaining cats to people or find them good homes.
    Please let this tragedy be a lesson.

  10. on 26 Nov 2009 at 10:49 pm Michele Bonilla

    I am Sick to see the poor cats so very sick and with No one to help them .I had Talk to Mr.Swee about taking 4 feral kittens I had .He wanted $450.00 a kitten then he would take them .Thank God I did not Give him the kittens ..They all went to Good Homes .Itake care of about 30 ferals they all look 100 Times better then the poor cats I just saw on the vido ..Now all the Cats will suffer ..This just Makes me So very sick ..Shame on him ..

  11. on 28 Nov 2009 at 4:00 pm Stephen

    I visited 10th Life twice and saw only happy, well-fed cats in the enclosures. They looked well and did not have watery eyes, sneezing, or other obvious symptoms of disease. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and the semi outdoor environment.

    There may indeed have been problems later, as I hear donations were dropping off and that of course will affect levels of care.

    I’m not saying there were no problems, but I never saw them. How nice it would have been for people to step forward and offer to help.

    Still, for those who think the cats are better off dead than living there, I would disagree. It’s too high a price for the cats to pay so some folks can congratulate themselves on righting an imaginary wrong. The NBC-2 visit was ambush journalism at its best, not only in the vist but in the one-sided editing that only went for quick shock value and not the often long and boring truth.

    For all those people who helped shut it down, I hope you are activiely seeking homes for the 600 plus cats there. That is, if you can do more than just criticize and accuse.

  12. on 28 Nov 2009 at 4:10 pm Stephen

    I visied 10 life twice and only saw healthy, happy cats in an airy enclosure that gave them lots of fresh air.

    It was a great alternative to the death that the cats would have faced without the sanctuary.

    I think the NBC investigation was really unfair: abrupt, one-sided, edited for negative effect and just plain snarky.

    Granted, there may have been problems out there. Just about any shelter can have them. Also, without money to pay for medical resources,isoaltion, there will be epidemics and death. Even normal everyday care is costly.

    I heard donations were way, way down.

    It would have been very nice for concerned individuals to have offered their help. But no.

    Now more than 600 cats face death. I hope that those who were attacking Swee and the sanctuary will spend an equal or greater amount of their time and energy to help find homes for those poor cats.

  13. on 29 Nov 2009 at 10:31 am Debbie

    Ok, people…I went there the day after Thanksgiving to try to locate the cat I had fostered…no, it was NOT what I think of when I hear the word “sanctuary”…at all…but, it was not as bleak as the video I viewed, either. I think the man who owns it was trying desperately hard to help the animals the best way he could…he became overwhelmed because of the sheer volume of cats dumped there….so, animal owners need to help educate Americans about spaying, neutering, and vetting their pets. My colony of “dumped” pets is well cared for with individual, insulated shelters…they are fed twice daily so that I can personally make sure everyone is healthy and well fed. BUT, I only have a couple dozen….I can’t begin to imagine caring for cats on the scale that Maury did. I’m sorry, Maury….if we had known the situation, I know there are fellow supporters who would have come in as volunteers to help. I certainly would have.

  14. on 30 Nov 2009 at 11:28 am LM Coffelt

    Has anyone actually VERIFIED whatever is on this YouTube video as being shot at the Sanctuary????

    Do not take in blind faith what you see or read on the internet as factual or even close to the truth!!

    Find out the FACTS for yourself before you are so quick to judge someone else. And while you’re seeking out truth, try walking a mile in your “victim’s” shoes before you condemn them. !!!

  15. on 02 Dec 2009 at 3:50 pm Candy

    How can anyone say these people are doing great work! I am in California and can’t do much except plea to friends in Florida. Has anyone called the ASPCA or Humane Society in this part of Florida? It should at least be investigated. I am a cat owner and work with a local organization to foster and socialize ferals and abandoned kittens and cats.

  16. on 03 Dec 2009 at 3:41 pm Debbie

    Yes, LM….the actual building, the pens and the conditions the cats were in….those photos are, indeed, accurate. I cannot verify the pics of the dead and dying kittens and cats in the infirmary because I did not go through there…I was looking for a specific cat…and since this was after the “raid”, I don’t believe there were any animals behind that particular door. But, as I posted earlier, I think Maury was in WAY over his head…and didn’t go public to ask for help when things became desperate.

  17. on 16 Dec 2009 at 9:19 pm kathy

    Is this Man going to be prosecuted? I understand he took a lot of money from people assuming the cats they sent to him would be well cared for. I think he should turn this property over to a group that can indeed provide for cats that have no place to go. I would like to see his bank statements, money in, money out and see where it truly went!

  18. on 19 Dec 2009 at 11:48 am mindi

    I visited 10th Life in September 2007, because I had rescued a male cat who tested double positive for FIV/FeLV, and was looking for a home for him as i had numerous inside cats already and was told they took the sick cats. After driving 4 1/2 hours to get there, I arrived to see a barn filled to the ceiling in a long room with cats caged in carriers~this was not my idea of the word “sanctuary”. being an animal advocate for some 35 years, I had already paid for the cat to be neutered and vetted and he came with medication. When I explained the medicine he was given for a deep puncture wound to the woman (in the wheel chair) she said that there was no way to keep track of these meds being given to the cat. My cat remained in the front room in his carrier,after hours of driving, as I took a “tour” of the place. I was with my son at the time and asked if I could take pictures~i was told I could but could not release them to any news/or website postings. As a MySpacer and animal rescuer, I knew what this meant. As I walked thru the enclosures outside, there were numerous cats there that were double positive for FIV/FeLV and single positives. I was getting sicker as I walked thru and couldn’t wait to get out of there with my cat in tow. I did take some pictures and the enclosures seemed nice but the lack of care was evident at this time.

    Here it is 2 years later, and someone finally listened after me making numerous calls across the State of Florida to get someone in there to investigate. I was crying and sick to my stomach on the way out of the driveway as I was calling advocates across the State to get on the phone and try to get the officials in there.

    I am glad my gut instinct told me I too could make an enclosure for this cat, who 4 months later tested negative for FeLV and he reamian strong and healthy on Interferon for his FIV.

    Thank you to all the volunteers and organizations for stepping up and taking action for the remainder of these babies left in this “horrendous hoarding” situation.

  19. on 19 Jan 2010 at 3:25 pm Louise Sing

    It amazes me how many people defend this piece of human excrement who caused multitudes of cats to suffer, and slowly die of disease-the dog pound would have been a much kinder-and faster-death than slowly dying of diseases and doing God-only-knows what experiments to already sick cats-putting chemicals in them which will make them SUFFER EVEN MORE. You all are sick to defend him. This is nothing short of torturing cats.

  20. on 05 Mar 2010 at 1:44 pm magen

    i am so sick to my stomach!! how could people do such things to cats?? their here to keep us company now to help us experiment new drugs! people really need to get their acts together.

  21. on 07 May 2011 at 11:46 pm Anne

    I work for an organization that helped shut down 10th Life. I just want to say that the conditions that these animals were living in were beyond deplorable. Anyone who may try to say that the owner was not aware, or did not have adequate funds but still had good intentions, would quickly retract such statements if they had seen the images I have. What was occurring at this sanctuary was down right criminal. Not only were basic necessities such as food, water,litter, and medical care denied, but the owner was also using cobra venom poison to experiment on the cats. Many, many animals had to be euthanized immediately on the scene because there was such extreme suffering. Many, many animals died in their cages before we made it there. Many had been rotting for weeks and months.

    I don’t doubt that the owner may have been a nice man, but the fact is he not only knew about this suffering but he perpetuated it by 1) not asking for help 2) taking in more cats 3) denying that a problem even existed. Individuals that are able to witness and allow such suffering yet deny its existence have medical mental disorders that need psychiatric treatment. This scenario can happen to any sanctuary or rescue and will if the owners do not have the ability and recognition of when to say no to additional animals. Saying no should not be viewed as denying help, rather it is the responsible thing to do for the sake of all animals involved.

  22. on 13 Jul 2011 at 2:51 pm Mary F.

    Maury is still in business in another location in the Palm Beach area. He recently applied for a grant. 10th Life in Clewiston was shut down but Maury wasn’t prosecuted for ANYTHING. Neither was the animal control officer who looked the other way for years while these cats suffered.
    Do not let up public pressure on this issue. It is not finished. Please do not let these cats have suffered and died in vain.

  23. on 23 Sep 2011 at 8:33 am Beth C.

    Mary F., When I read your comment from July 13th, my blood ran cold. Could you please contact 954-596-0848 and ask for either Beth or Cindy. If you get the machine, please leave us a way to reach you. We can definitely help with public pressure, but we need more info about the current stuff. Thank you for keeping up on it!

  24. on 01 Feb 2013 at 12:06 am Rachael

    It still bothers me to this day that I did not follow my gut. I had taken in a stray and gotten her fixed with the intent on finding her a home, but that proved very difficult when I found out she had FIV. I ended up taking the very long drive down to 10th life and I wish I had never left her there :(
    I tried to find out if she was okay and if I could get her back when everything hit the fan, but none of my emails were ever responded. Does anyone know of a way to find out what happened to the cats?

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