PETA staffers face 62 felony cruelty counts in North Carolina
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2005:
WINTON, N.C.–The scheduled first court appearance of PETA
staffers Adria Joy Hinkle and Andrew Benjamin Cook on multiple
cruelty charges was on July 19, 2005 postponed until August 16.
Hinkle, 27, and Cook, 24, are charged with a combined 62
counts of felony cruelty to animals and 16 counts of illegal disposal
of animal remains.
Police sources have indicated that other persons associated
with PETA may be charged as result of ongoing investigation.
The court date was delayed, reported Darren Freeman of the
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, because the prosecution was “waiting for
lab results on chemicals found in a van the two suspects were using
when they were arrested, and the results to determine the cause of
death of one of the animals.”
Ahoskie, North Carolina police detective Jeremy Roberts told Freeman
that the van was registered to PETA.
Roberts announced the next day that the tests had confirmed
that the chemicals were ketamine and pentobarbital. Ketamine is
commonly used to immobilize animals before surgical procedures or
lethal injection. Pentobarbital is the standard drug used for lethal
injection. Both drugs are regulated by the federal Drug Enforcement
Agency, and in North Carolina may only be purchased and used by a
Ketamine is also known as “the date-rape drug,” while
pentobarbital is a barbituate derivative with street value to addicts.
Hinkle and Cook were arrested on June 15, 2005. Ahoskie
police and Bertie County sheriff’s deputies investigating the
discovery of 60 to 70 animal carcasses in dumpsters during the
preceding four weeks said they saw Hinkle and Cook dump 18 dead dogs
and found the remains of 13 more in their van.
PETA staff had been taking animals from pounds in Bertie
County since 2001 and nearby Northampton County since 2004.
Freeman and Seth Seymour of the Virginian-Pilot reported that PETA
president Ingrid Newkirk called Hinkle “The Mother Teresa of
animals,” but suspended her for 90 days. PETA said Cook was not
Newkirk and domestic animal rescue chief Daphna Nachminovitch
told news media and concerned animal advocates in a flurry of
statements during the next several days that dumping the dead animals
in garbage bins violated PETA policy and was done without their
knowledge, but insisted that PETA had never concealed that most of
the animals it took from the North Carolina shelters would be killed.
Newkirk and Nachminovitch claimed that PETA killed North
Carolina animals by lethal injection so that they would not be
“drowned in floods,” shot, or gassed, detailing in one statement a
decade-long dispute with Yadkin County over use of a locally made
carbon monoxide chamber.
But the animals involved in the case against Hinkle and Cook
came from other counties–and were not all from pounds.
Wrote Freeman and Seymour, “Among the dead animals
authorities found a female cat and her two ‘very adoptable’ kittens
taken from Ahoskie Animal Hospital, veterinarian Patrick Proctor said.”
Stated Proctor, “These were just kittens we were trying to
find homes for. PETA said they would do that.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE in mid-2004 received detailed complaints from
several North Carolina no-kill shelter volunteers and one ex-PETA
employee who charged that PETA was taking animals from them who had
been sterilized and vaccinated in preparation for adoption,
promising to place them in homes, and then refused to account for
them. The volunteers believed the animals were being killed. The
ex-PETA employee affirmed their suspicions, but the complainants had
no physical evidence to support their case.
“The arrests have left local animal rescuers with more
questions than answers,” summarized Luci Weldon of The Warren Record.
Macon animal rescuer Ruth Brown told Weldon that “In December
2003, while she was working with Rainbow Rescue, a no-kill
organization in Roanoke Rapids, she conducted e-mail correspondence
with an individual who described herself as being active in animal
rescue and who used the Community Animal Project, run by PETA, to
provide foster care for the rescued animals.
“I thought it was the answer from heaven,” Brown recounted.
Wrote Weldon, “Brown said that she was told that local
animals transferred to PETA would be prepared for potential adoption.
As animals were given to PETA, Brown said she had contact with a
representative of CAP in Norfolk, where PETA is headquartered, as
well as contact with Adria Hinkle.”
Said Brown, “We asked them about the animals and they said
they only had to put one to sleep because of congenital heart
failure,” Brown said. “We questioned them on several occasions.
They reassured us that the animals were adopted.”
Continued Weldon, “Brown said that Warren County animal
rescuers held fundraising events to pay for spaying and neutering and
other needs related to the care of the animals transferred to PETA.”
Brown became suspicious in late spring 2004 “after her
original contact arrived in a large truck which contained over 80
animals,” Weldon added.
A fellow volunteer followed the truck to Ahoskie, Brown told
Weldon, but “was not allowed inside a building in Ahoskie where the
animals were taken,” Weldon summarized.
The volunteer did enter the building later and found syringe
caps and blood.
“In June of 2004, several local animal rescuers decided to
cut ties with PETA, Brown said, and a Rainbow Rescue representative
said last week that her organization “will definitely not have
anything to do with PETA,” Weldon wrote.
Brown’s account closely paralleled those that ANIMAL PEOPLE had received.
She told Weldon that Warren County rescuers sent
approximately 1,000 animals to PETA in about six months.
“We had faith,” Brown concluded. “They told us they were
fostering, vetting, networking these animals. Isn’t this deception?
We believed in them.”
While claiming to oppose cruel methods of killing animals,
PETA is the last major animal advocacy group in the U.S. that overtly
opposes neuter/return feral cat control and no-kill sheltering.
In September 2003, for example, PETA tried to block a
neuter/return program proposed to the city of Newport News by Cat
Rescue Inc., the Animal Resource Foundation, and Meower Power Feral
PETA and Meower Power had clashed before. ANIMAL PEOPLE in
March 1998 published the allegation of Norfolk-area cat rescuer John
Newton that a hit squad led initially by Ingrid Newkirk herself had
for three years trapped cats from neuter/return colonies supervised
by Meower Power and took many to their deaths at animal control
Newkirk did not respond to ANIMAL PEOPLE questions on that
occasion, but confirmed to Michael Barakat of Associated Press in
July 2000 that her staff killed 1,325 of the 2,103 dogs and cats they
received in 1999–63%, above the regional animal control norm of 58%.
Then, according to Virginia state records, PETA in 2003
killed 1,911 of 2,225 animals received: 86%.
Although PETA is not a shelter organization, it killed more
animals each year than 75% of the animal control shelters in Virginia.
Following the Barakat expose, PETA agreed to fund three
mobile sterilization clinics in Virginia, operated by the
Houston-based Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, whose first Virginia
clinic was funded by the Best Friends Animal Society.
Newkirk had in February 2000 media statements called the Best
Friends “No More Homeless Pets” drive to make Utah a no-kill state
“at best, naive.”
With investment of $8.27 million through June 2005 from Maddie’s
Fund, Best Friends assembled a coalition including 25 rescue groups,
54 animal control agencies, 93 private practice veterinary clinics,
and the Humane Society of Utah, who together have subsequently cut
Utah shelter killing by 29%, boosting adoptions by 56%.
Newkirk ripped “No More Homeless Pets” after Best Friends
cofounder Michael Mountain and two other Best Friends staff members
asked PETA about the Barakat article.
Newkirk “declined to meet with us,” Mountain told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Other staffers at PETA said that they routinely kill the animals
that they pick up,” Mountain continued. “We have received
unsolicited reports from former PETA staff, describing how they
joined because they wanted to help animals, only to find that they
were sent out to kill them. We have also heard from numerous sources
who were visited by people calling themselves PETA volunteers,”
Mountain said, “offering to ‘find a good home’ for homeless pets,
and saying that the animals would be taken to a ‘PETA shelter.’
“These people discovered too late that there is no PETA
shelter and that no one at PETA would even tell them what had become
of the animals. Local rescue groups reported that PETA basically
competes with them, trying in many cases to kill the animals before
they can be rescued,” Mountain charged.
About six months after the Barakat expose appeared, PETA in
2000 sent euthanasia technician Teresa Gibbs to the no-kill Visakha
SPCA, of Visakhapatnam, India, as a donated “shelter manager.”
Seeking to undo the Visakha SPCA no-kill policy, Gibbs did severe
harm to the organization’s donor, staff, and community relations
before being fired.
Gibbs then joined the Animal Birth Control program managed by Ahimsa
of Mumbai, and did similar damage.
“We do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals,” Newkirk
handwrote on a post card to neuter/return and no-kill sheltering
proponent Nathan Winograd, who then directed the Law & Advocacy
Department for the San Francisco SPCA and now does shelter consulting
from San Diego.
A former criminal prosecutor, Winograd offered his services
pro bono to the North Carolina prosecution.
Animal advocates respond
“At a press conference following the arrest of the two PETA
employees,” the Best Friends web site editorialized, “PETA
president Ingrid Newkirk said, ‘PETA believes euthanasia is the
kindest gift to a dog or cat unwanted and unloved.’ We simply
couldn’t disagree more. The kindest gift to a homeless animal is a
Wrote Friends of Animals legal director Lee Hall, “FoA would
like to state that the Ahoskie killings are not euthanasia, and are
a serious affront to animal rights. Animal advocates have no
business killing healthy sheltered animals. People who engage in
such conduct–regardless of killing or disposal methods–convey the
message that they and their supporters have accepted a
“Alternatives to the cycle of breeding and killing do exist,”
Hall added, pointing out that FoA has subsidized sterilization of
more than two million animals since 1957.
Wrote Kanak Roy, M.D. of the Animal Aid Alliance in Virginia
Beach, in a commentary typical of many that ANIMAL PEOPLE received
from activists around the world, “I have had disagreements with
Newkirk in the past, but regardless of her troubling philosophy, I
have continued to defend her publicly. I have lobbied several local
news commentators on her behalf. However, the belief that PETA’s
unconscionable actions are in support of animal welfare, and the
idea that they are any way reducing suffering, is pathological.”