Death Squad

Peta-death-kit

The PETA field killing kit found by police in the back of the PETA death van in Ahoskie, North Carolina.

In May of 2005, the bodies of dead dogs and cats began turning up in the trash bin of a supermarket in North Carolina. Local police eventually arrested two PETA staff members. The PETA van pulled up in front of the trash bin, and the two began filling it with garbage bags that contained the bodies of dead animals. Following is an account of the incident as reported in the Roanoke News Herald on January 24, 2007:

[Ahoskie Police Detective Sgt. Jeremy] Roberts said he became involved in the case on May 19, 2005 after being dispatched to an area behind the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket in Ahoskie’s New Market Shopping Center. There he was met by Kevin Wrenn of D&E Properties, a local firm that handles the maintenance of the shopping center. During his early morning rounds disposing of trash, Wrenn had discovered what appeared to be some sort of animal in a trash bag that was tossed in the dumpster behind Piggly Wiggly.

“I immediately noticed a strong odor coming from the dumpster,” Roberts said. Probing inside the dumpster, Roberts discovered 20, heavy duty trash bags. He eventually discovered a total of 21 dead dogs inside those bags.

After using the Town of Ahoskie’s help to bury the dogs at the town’s old landfill, Roberts told [the District Attorney] he launched an investigation of how the dead dogs wound-up in an Ahoskie dumpster. He said he checked with the local animal hospitals and animal shelters to inquire of how they discarded of dead animals.

Two weeks later (June 2, 2005) dead animals—17 dogs and three cats—were discovered within 20 bags in the same dumpster. Photographing the dead animals, Roberts took those photographs to Bertie County Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson from whom Roberts had learned was working with PETA through an agreement to come to the Bertie shelter to collect unwanted, unclaimed animals. Anderson told Roberts he could not positively identify the animals by the photos.

Another report of dead animals found in the same dumpster came in on June 9. Eighteen bags containing 20 dead dogs were discovered…

After further investigation, two PETA employees, [Adria] Hinkle and [Andrew] Cook, became the subject of police surveillance. Detective Roberts further testified:

Upon picking-up and transporting an injured dog to the Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH), the PETA van in which Hinkle and Cook were traveling was followed by Bertie Sheriff’s detectives Frank Timberlake and Marty Northcott. While at AAH, employees there, through a pre-arranged pick-up, released a mother cat and two kittens to Hinkle and Cook.

The van traveled back to the Bertie shelter where Hinkle and Cook took possession of several animals. At some point (PETA officials attending the trial said it occurred in the van while parked at the Bertie shelter), all of the animals were euthanized by Hinkle.

After leaving the shelter, the van was tailed as it made its way to Ahoskie. The van turned into New Market Shopping Center and headed behind Piggly Wiggly. There, according to Roberts, a female, later identified as Hinkle, was behind the wheel. She made a u-turn and parked the side doors of the van next to the door of the dumpster.

Roberts said while he and Bertie Sheriff’s Detective Ed Pittman were approaching the van on foot from their surveillance locations behind the grocery store, he could hear the “thump, thump” of heavy objects striking the bottom of the empty dumpster.

Before the two lawmen could reach the van, it took off, heading out the same way it entered the back area of the grocery store. At that time he made contact with Timberlake who performed a traffic stop on the van while it was still in the New Market parking lot.

Meanwhile, Roberts performed a brief search of the dumpster, discovering the same type of trash bags found during the previous three weeks. At that point he placed Hinkle and Cook under arrest.

Dressed later in a hazmat suit, Roberts retrieved nine trash bags containing 16 dead dogs. Those animals, like their predecessors, were taken to the old landfill for burial. However, this time Anderson was at the burial site documenting the animals as they were removed from the bags. He confirmed they were the same animals picked-up earlier that day by Hinkle and Cook at the Bertie shelter.

A short while later as Roberts said he was preparing to inventory the van, held at the Ahoskie Police Department, he discovered another 12 bags containing eight dogs and 14 cats inside the van. Roberts confirmed that the mother cat and two kittens picked-up from AAH were among the dead animals.

Roberts also revealed during his testimony that he took into evidence several items found in the van. Included were boxes of trash bags, PETA manuals, doggie treats, cat food, animal toys, leashes and a tackle box containing syringes, needles and bottles of liquid substance, later determined by the SBI Lab in Raleigh as the drugs used to euthanize animals.

Testimony at the trial would show that some of the animals were in no danger of being killed before PETA took possession of them. Dr. Patrick Proctor, the veterinarian who gave PETA a mother cat and two kittens whom PETA promptly killed, said that PETA had promised him they would find the animals homes. “They came to the office last Wednesday and picked up the cat and two kittens…. They were just kittens we were trying to find homes for. PETA said they would do that…” said Proctor. “So imagine my surprise when I learned they allegedly dumped dead animals in a trash bin later that same day.”

Proctor also stated that the animals “were in good health and were very adoptable, especially the kittens.” And after Proctor was asked to examine one of the dead animals taken from the PETA crime scene, he told a local television station that, “The animal that I found was a very healthy six-month puppy that had been killed that day. It was a six-month-old lab mix and appeared to be in very good shape… and he had received some type of injection in his front right leg. PETA will never pick up another animal from my practice.” Both Hinkle and Cook would themselves go on to describe some of the animals they killed as having been “perfect” and “adorable.”* So why was PETA killing animals, sometimes within mere minutes of having promised that they would find the animals homes?

As surprising as the incidents described above may be, they in fact detail what has been business as usual by PETA employees for many years. PETA systematically seeks out, then kills, roughly 2,000 animals every year. Over 29,000 animals have died at the hands of PETA employees over the last decade. While communities across the country are ending the killing of healthy and treatable animals, with save rates as high as 98 percent, in 2011, PETA killed 96 percent of all dogs and cats and 93 percent of other companion animals such as rabbits that it took in, despite revenues of over 30 million dollars a year and millions of animal-loving members. Despite the public perception of PETA as a radical “animal rights” organization, in practice, the organization is itself the functional equivalent of a slaughterhouse.

It is not clear whether all PETA employees participate in the killing or just a select few who have been handpicked by Newkirk (although the silence and complicity of every PETA employee makes them as much to blame for the killing as those who actually inject the animals with poison). This fact, combined with the climate of fear and intimidation for which Newkirk is infamous—routinely sending letters threatening legal action to any animal lover who publicly condemns PETA’s killing and firing employees who support No Kill—may explain why few have come forward to provide more details.

But of this much we are certain: approximately 2,000 animals cross PETA’s threshold every year, and very few make it out alive. The vast majority—96 percent in 2011—exit the facility dead when Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater stops by on their regular visits to pick up their remains. Between these visits, the bodies are stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA’s victims, was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead.

* Since PETA registers as a shelter in Virginia, the PETA employees were acquitted at trial and on appeal because it is legal for PETA (and other shelters) to kill “owner relinquished” animals for virtually any reason at any time without any effort to find them homes, another reason why shelter reform laws are needed across the country.

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