In a horrific incident, the police in South Carolina found the bodies of 30 dogs and cats in a cage inside the home of the CEO of an animal rescue nonprofit.
Caroline Pennington, the 47-year-old CEO and director of GROWL, was arrested Friday and charged with 30 counts of ill-treatment of animals, the New York Post reported. The officers found 28 dogs and two cats decomposing in cages inside her home.
The incident came to light following a wellness check by Richland County investigators at Pennington’s house on May 22 after the neighbors complained of the “smell of death.” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott dubbed the discovery as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he’s ever seen.
“It’s appalling and it’s heartbreaking,” Lott said in a statement, New York Post reported. “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.”
Authorities believe the animals likely died from starvation and dehydration. The amount of decomposition hinted the animals have been dead for a significant amount of time.
A spokesperson for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said the preliminary investigation revealed the dogs and cats had been neglected and were left alone in the home for up to nine months. The police said they were found lying dead in their own waste.
Pennington is held on bond of $75,000, according to Animals 24-7. She is said to be a well-known figure in the animal rescue community in Columbia, South Carolina.
Apart from being the director of GROWL, she was also employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society at the time of the incident.
“We were unaware of the former employee’s actions and are truly shocked and heartbroken,” Kershaw County Humane Society said in a statement. “Our dedicated staff will continue with our mission to serve the lost and homeless pets of Kershaw County.”
Pennington also had significant criminal history, according to Animals 24-7. She has been previously convicted of defrauding the federal and South Carolina state Medicaid programs, conspiracy to commit tax evasion among other unknown offenses.