COLUMBIA, S.C. — A local animal rescue director is being accused of having over two dozen dead animals on her property in what Richland County deputies are calling a "disturbing case of animal cruelty."
Officers say Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, is charged with 30 counts of ill treatment of animals. Pennington is the CEO and Director of the non-profit group known as GROWL.
Back on May 22, deputies say they got a call to do a welfare check on Dibble Lane in Columbia after getting a call saying there was a "smell of death" from a home there. When they arrived, officers could smell something and decided to go inside the house.
When they entered, they said they found 30 decomposing animals--28 dogs, 2 cats---confined in cages and crates. Deputies say the animals had been dead for some time and appeared to have died from starvation and dehydration. Additionally, deputies say the animals were lying in their own waste and died in their cages.
The animals were removed with the help of Richland County Animal Control.
“It’s appalling and it’s heartbreaking,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a statement. “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.”
Officers say Pennington was also employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society. In a statement posted on social media, the group said that the events did not occur at their facility. "We were unaware of the former employee’s actions and are truly shocked and heartbroken," they wrote. "Our dedicated staff will continue with our mission to serve the lost and homeless pets of Kershaw County."
Deputies say GROWL is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit and people who have made documented donations to them in the last year should call the sheriff's department.