30 dead animals found in house of animal rescue CEO, sheriff says

Dawn Pennington, 47, is charged with 18 counts of ill treatment of animals.
Dawn Pennington, 47, is charged with 18 counts of ill treatment of animals.(Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 1:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS/Gray News) - A South Carolina animal rescue CEO and director is facing numerous charges after deputies said they found 30 decomposing animals in her house.

WIS reports 47-year-old Caroline “Dawn” Pennington was arrested after deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call saying there was “a smell of death” coming from a home in Columbia.

When deputies went into the home, they found 28 dogs and two cats decomposing in cages and crates.

Investigators said no living animals were found inside the house. Animal control worked for hours with deputies to take the dead animals out of the home.

Deputies said they believe the animals appeared to have died from starvation and dehydration.

Sheriff Leon Lott described this as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has ever seen. The animals’ bodies were found lying in their own waste and had not been moved from their cages before the discovery by officials.

“It’s appalling, and it’s heartbreaking,” Lott said. “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 said Pennington is a well-known figure in the animal rescue community.

At the time of the discovery, Pennington was employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society in addition to running her animal rescue.

Kershaw County Humane Society board of directors president Jamie Woodington said Pennington resigned Thursday citing unspecified personal reasons.

“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,” Woodington said.

Woodington also said the shelter was made aware of Pennington’s charges and arrest on Friday.

“Everyone at KCHS is very distraught and appalled at the charges levied on Ms. Pennington,” Woodington said. “Our sole mission is to care for all the animals that come in our doors.”

Investigators are asking for anyone who made documented donations to Pennington’s registered nonprofit organization in the last 12 months to contact the sheriff’s department.

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