Police said it was “heartbreaking.”
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The CEO of a nonprofit animal rescue has been arrested on animal cruelty charges in South Carolina after authorities found an "appalling" and "heartbreaking" number of dead animals inside her home.
Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, was arrested and charged with 30 counts of ill-treatment of animals, reported FOX29.
Police in Richland County said they discovered the bodies of 28 dogs and two cats inside Pennington's home last month after they were called to investigate a "smell of death" reportedly coming from the home.
Authorities told the broadcaster that they found the animals inside cages and that the causes of death appeared to be dehydration and starvation. They added that the animals seemed to have been there for a long time.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described it as "one of the worst cases of animal cruelty" he's ever seen.
Pennington was the CEO and director of a nonprofit animal rescue by the name of GROWL. She also worked at the Kershaw County Humane Society, the Columbia Post and Courier newspaper reported.
Sheriff Lott said in a statement that the case is "appalling, and it's heartbreaking."
"This is someone who was entrusted by the community to care for these animals and find them homes," said Lott. "She betrayed that trust and she betrayed the trust of these innocent animals who relied on her."
Investigators are asking anyone that donated to Pennington's shelter, GROWL, in the last year to contact the sheriff's office.
Pennington's attorney, Ally Benevento, said "mental health problems" were involved in what happened.
In a statement provided to NBC affiliate WIS-TV Benevento said, "Around 1 in 4 adults in this country suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder and so often, mental health problems manifest themselves in very disturbing ways."
"It is difficult for anyone to comprehend how someone could allow to happen what happened in this case, but there are some significant and serious mental health issues at play that Ms. Pennington is dealing with," continued Benevento's statement.
"Everyone at KCHS is very distraught and appalled," Jamie Woodington, president of the humane society's board of directors, told WIS-TV.
Woodington added that Pennington resigned from her job there last week, and as far as they know, none of their animals were involved.
Pennington is currently being held on a bond of $75,000 at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, reported Law and Crime.
The case has yet to be tried in court.
This article's left-hand cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.