Caroline Dawn Pennington, CEO and director of GROWL, a South Carolina nonprofit for animals, was arrested on June 3 for alleged animal abuse after cops discovered the decomposed bodies of dogs and cats inside his house.
Police investigated as part of a wellness check after receiving complaints about ‘the smell of death’. The foul smell emanated from animal cages containing the decomposing bodies of 28 dogs and two cats inside the Pennington home.
Describing the horror, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott called it one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he had ever seen. Lott was quoted as saying:
“It’s appalling and heartbreaking. This is someone who was tasked by the community to care for these animals and find homes for them. She betrayed that trust, and she betrayed the trust of these animals innocent people who were counting on her.”
Investigators said the cause of their deaths was neglect and they were left alone inside the home for up to nine months. According to the cops, the animals were found lying in their own waste.
Caroline Dawn Pennington: Director of Animal Rescue Turns Murderer
Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, is quite a popular name in the animal rescue community in Columbia, South Carolina. Not only did she lead the Global Rescue Welfare League, or GROWL, but she was also employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society (KCHS).
However, a day before his arrest, Pennington resigned from KCHS for personal reasons, said KCHS board chairman Jamie Woodington. In its official statement, KCHS said:
“We were unaware of the actions of the former employee and are truly shocked and sorry. Our dedicated staff will continue our mission to serve lost and homeless pets in Kershaw County.”
The organization also clarified that Pennington would no longer work for them.
Based on the investigation, officials believe the animals died of severe starvation and dehydration. Meanwhile, Richland County Animal Control worked with the RCSD to remove decomposed animal bodies from the home.
Caroline Dawn Pennington was incarcerated at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and charged with 30 counts of animal abuse. Pennington’s bail was set at $75,000 on the condition that she be GPS-monitored and have no contact with animals. Pennington was also barred from fundraising for the nonprofit.
Officials also noted that Caroline Dawn Pennington had some run-ins with the law before her latest arrest. She had previously been convicted of defrauding South Carolina’s federal and state Medicaid programs and conspiracy to commit tax evasion, along with a list of other offenses.
There is also a growing comparison between Caroline Dawn Pennington and the former owner of Fairfield Dog Rescue President Heidi Lueders, who allegedly starved five “rescued” pit bulls in their cages at her rented home in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Since Caroline Dawn Pennington has a criminal history, police are also investigating GROWL, registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, for fraudulent activity. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is asking anyone who has donated to GROWL in the past year to contact them.