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Thirty Dogs, Cats Found Dead in Cages in Animal Rescue CEO’s Home: Police

Police arrested the CEO of an animal rescue nonprofit in Columbia, South Carolina, Friday after discovering 30 dead dogs and cats in her home.

Officers took 47-year-old Caroline Pennington into custody after finding the decomposing bodies of 28 dogs and two cats in cages and crates, local news station WIS-TV reported.

Pennington, CEO and director of animal rescue organization GROWL, faces charges of 30 counts of ill-treatment of animals.

Authorities believe the animals died of starvation and dehydration and were dead in her house for as long as nine months, a spokesperson for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department told Newsweek Friday.

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“The animals were supposed to be under the care of Ms. Pennington and that is her home,” the spokesperson added. “The animals were neglected by being left alone with no care for several months.”

The sheriff’s department initially responded to reports claiming there was a “smell of death” coming out from Pennington’s house. Authorities said that no living animals were found inside.

Investigators said that the animals were found lying in their own waste and were not removed from their cages. The sheriff’s department worked with Richland County Animal Control to remove the animals.

“It’s appalling and it’s heartbreaking,” said Sheriff Leon Lott, according to WIS-TV. “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.”

Lott added that Pennington is well-known in the animal rescue community and worked with the Kershaw County Humane Society (KCHS).

A spokesperson for Kershaw County Humane Society told Newsweek that Pennington worked for KCHS since 2018 in different roles including “most recently” a rescue coordinator, until she resigned on Thursday. Jamie Woodington, president of the KCHS Board of Directors also confirmed Pennington’s resignation to WIS-TV.

Humane Society ‘Shocked’
“Earlier today, a former Kershaw County Humane Society employee was arrested by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and charged with ill-treatment of animals. To be clear, these events did not occur at the Kershaw County Humane Society facility,” the KCHS posted on Facebook on Friday. “We were unaware of the former employee’s actions and are truly shocked and heartbroken.”

“Our dedicated staff works tirelessly, day-in and day-out, to provide hope and care for the lost and homeless animals in Kershaw County, and we will continue to do so in spite of this unfortunate situation,” the organization’s spokesperson told Newsweek.

“At this time, to KCHS’ knowledge, her charges also do not involve any animals from the Kershaw County Humane Society, but KCHS will continue to research and work with law enforcement on this case,” said Woodington. “Everyone at KCHS is very distraught and appalled at the charges levied on Ms. Pennington. Our sole mission is to care for all the animals that come in our doors.”

A number of incidents involving animal neglect have been reported recently, including four dogs who died last week in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, after their owner allegedly left them in a car while she went to eat lunch at a restaurant.