RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The director of an animal rescue in South Carolina has been arrested after authorities discovered 30 decomposing animals inside a home.

Caroline Dawn Pennington, 47, was taken into custody on Friday after turning herself into investigators. She is being charged with 30 counts of ill-treatment of animals, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Pennington is the CEO and director of nonprofit animal rescue, GROWL, in the Midlands.

Deputies responded to a welfare check at a home on Dibble Lane in Columbia last month after someone reported there was a “smell of death” coming from the home.

At the home, deputies said they found 30 decomposing animals – including 28 dogs and two cats – confined in cages and crates.

Deputies believe the animals had been deceased for a long time and may have died from starvation and dehydration.

“It’s appalling and it’s heartbreaking,” said Sheriff Lott, who called it one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has ever seen. “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.”

Sheriff Lott said Pennington is a well-known figure in the animal rescue community. She was employed by the Kershaw County Humane Society at the time of the incident, in addition to operating GROWL.

Investigators said anyone who has made documented donations to GROWL in the last 12 months to contact the sheriff’s office.

Richland County Animal Control worked side by side with RCSD to remove the animals from the home.

Pennington was booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.