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South Carolina animal rescue CEO arrested after 30 dead dogs and cats found in her home

A South Carolina woman who runs an animal rescue was arrested on Friday and charged with 30 counts of ill treatment of animals after authorities discovered the decomposing corpses of 30 dead dogs and cats in the woman’s home.

Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, was taken into custody this week after police found 28 dead dogs and 2 dead cats inside her home. Neighbors had called the police to conduct a wellness check, complaining the house had the “smell of death.” Inside, police found the bodies of the 30 animals inside crates, and investigators say the animals appear to have died of starvation and dehydration.

“They were lying in their own waste and it is believed that they died in the cages and had not been moved prior to being discovered,” officials said.  The animals were removed with the help of local animal control workers.  The wellness check occurred on May 22, and it remains unclear why Pennington was not arrested until this week. 

Pennington is the CEO of GROWL, a nonprofit animal rescue. “It’s appalling, and it’s heartbreaking,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “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.”

Pennington was also employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society. Pennington reportedly resigned from the Humane Society on Thursday, saying her reasons were unrelated to the charges.

“This is an incredibly tragic case with unimaginably horrific allegations,” Benevento said. “It is difficult for anyone to comprehend how someone could allow to happen what happened in this case, but there are some significant and serious mental health issues at play that Ms. Pennington is dealing with,” said Pennington’s attorney, Ally Benevento.

“She and her family are working through some very difficult circumstances, and we respectfully request privacy and space so that she and her family can focus on the mental health issues that need to be addressed.”

ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NBC NEWS

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