30 dead animals found in house of animal rescue CEO
Midlands Sheriff describes it as disturbing and extreme case of animal cruelty
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Midlands animal rescue CEO and director has been charged with 30 counts of ill treatment of animals after 30 decomposing animals were found in her house.
Caroline “Dawn” Pennington, 47, the CEO and director of a nonprofit animal rescue called GROWL, was arrested after deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call saying there was “a smell of death” coming from a home on Dibble Lane in Columbia.
When deputies went into the home, they found 30 decomposing animals (28 dogs and two cats) in cages and crates. The animals had been dead for a long time.
No living animals were found inside the house, according to investigators.
Deputies said based on the circumstances they appeared to have died from starvation and dehydration.
Sheriff Leon Lott described this as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has ever seen. The animals’ bodies were found lying in their own waste and had not been moved from their cages prior to the discovery by officials.
“It’s appalling and it’s heartbreaking,” Lott said. “This is someone who was entrusted by the community to care for these animals and find them homes. She betrayed that trust and she betrayed the trust of these innocent animals who relied on her.”
Lott said Pennington is a well-known figure in the animal rescue community.
At the time of the incident, Pennington was employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society in addition to running GROWL.
Jamie Woodington, President of the Board of Directors for KCHS, said that Pennington resigned Thursday citing unspecified personal reasons.
“At this time, to KCHS’ knowledge, her charges also do not involve any animals from the Kershaw County Humane Society, but KCHS will continue to research and work with law enforcement on this case,” said Woodington.
Woodington said the shelter was made aware of Pennington’s charges and arrest on Friday.
“Everyone at KCHS is very distraught and appalled at the charges levied on Ms. Pennington,” said Woodington. “Our sole mission is to care for all the animals that come in our doors.”
GROWL is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Investigators ask that anyone who has made documented donations to GROWL in the last 12 months to contact RCSD.
Richland County Animal Control worked side-by-side for hours with RCSD to take the dead animals out of the home.
Pennington was booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
Pennington’s Bond was set at $75,000 with the conditions that she have GPS monitoring and no contact with animals. She is also not allowed to fundraise for the nonprofit.
Pennington’s Lawyer released a statement:
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