COLUMBIA, S.C. — Animal rescue director, Caroline Dawn Pennington, was arrested on 30 counts of animal cruelty on Friday, and the Richland County Sheriff's Department is now investigating her for fraud as well.
Before her resignation on Thursday, she worked at Kershaw County Humane Society and handled staff scheduling for the past four years. Director of Kershaw Humane, Jamie Woodington, even describing her as a "hard worker" and "nice woman".
"She is very outgoing, she is well spoken, she was always conveying herself as someone who wants to do the right thing for all animals," Woodington said.
In a hearing Friday afternoon, Pennington's bond was set at $75,000.
Deputies say she was improperly running a 501 c3 certified rescue service called "GROWL" out of her home on Dibble Lane. A neighbor notified police, reporting the "smell of death" coming from the property.
"The home was in disrepair from general neglect," said investigator, Lt. Joe Clarke. "The surfaces of the floor and the cabinets were covered in fecal matter, there were areas you could tell these animals had urinated. It smelled bad, it's summer, it's humid. As we were walking through the home, we kept finding dead animals in carriers... Some were unidentifiable as dogs or cats."
Richland deputies and animal control searched the property and found the bodies of 28 dead dogs and 2 cats. Investigators say they appeared to have been starved, adding their bodies had been in the home for at least nine months.
According to investigators the property also seemed to be abandoned.
Deputies say during this time, Pennington was still collecting donations for rescue efforts.
"If you've done business with this woman or had contact with her, given her any kind of money, or given her products to help her animal rescue in the last year, we'd like to talk to you," Lt. Clarke said. "Don't hesitate to give us a call."
The GROWL rescue service was registered as a 501c3 but after checking the Secretary of State's list, the animal rescue has now been removed.
If you have any additional information on this case or if you have done business with Pennington in the past year, call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.