Cases of animal hoarding and abuse are sad enough no matter where they crop up — but when that person is also known as a local animal rescuer, the case is even more perplexing and maddening.
That appears to be the case in one South Carolina animal rescue community as Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, the CEO and director of registered non-profit rescue “GROWL” has been charged with over two dozen counts of ill-treatment of animals. She also worked for the Kershaw County Humane Society.
After a local reported a “smell of death” coming from the house on her property, deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Richland County Animal Control visited to find nightmarish conditions.
On May 22, they arrived at the home and were able to confirm that there was, indeed, a foul stench coming from the house, which prompted them to enter.
They found 28 dogs and 2 cats in various states of decomposition in the home, locked up in cages with no apparent food or water. Not a single living animal was found.
Authorities said it appeared that the animals had been dead for some time from apparent dehydration and starvation and that the cages they were in were full of waste.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the find was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he’d ever seen — and even more heartbreaking, as the apparent perpetrator was the very person who was supposed to be helping needy animals.
“This is someone who was entrusted by the community to care for these animals and find them homes,” Lott said, according to USA Today.
A disturbing story I worked on today. @RCSD arrested Dawn Pennington after finding 30 dead animals in her home. Pennington runs an animal rescue nonprofit. https://t.co/Mae1qnENic pic.twitter.com/p42UDTReRu
— Veronica (@vrhill) June 4, 2022
“She betrayed that trust and she betrayed the trust of these innocent animals who relied on her.”
“We were unaware of the former employee’s actions and are truly shocked and heartbroken,” the Kershaw County Humane Society added, according to WLTX. “Our dedicated staff will continue with our mission to serve the lost and homeless pets of Kershaw County.”
Pennington was charged with 30 cases of ill-treatment of animals and turned herself in.
Two years ago, in 2019, after a local shelter run by the sheriff’s office was closed down due to care issues, Pennington was quoted as saying the animals did “not deserve to have to endure these conditions,” words that now ring hollow.
“The animals in Allendale did not and do not deserve to have to endure these conditions,” Pennington told The Augusta Chronicle at the time. “Something must change immediately.
“This should be a priority to anyone in the county. Letting animals go without food, water and basic care is simply inhumane.”
Authorities are estimating the animals have been in their current state for around nine months, and they say that during that time, she continued to accept donations of items and funds. As a result, the sheriff’s department is also looking into the possibility that Pennington was committing fraud.
The sheriff’s department is also urging anyone who has donated to GROWL in the past year and has proof of their donation to contact them.
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