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PETA duo charged with 62 felonies

AHOSKIE – In a story that first broke Thursday on the R-C News-Herald’s website, there are more questions than answers of why a pair of animal rights activists would allegedly take part in something they adamantly oppose – unethical treatment of animals.

A month-long investigation into animal cruelty resulted in the arrests of a pair of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) workers.

On Wednesday, the Ahoskie Police charged Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of 504 Tree Top Street, Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of 1602 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, Va. with 31 felony counts each of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts each of illegal disposal of dead animals.

An additional charge of illegal trespassing was later filed against both individuals.

Both were transported to the Hertford County jail, each under a $35,500 secured bond.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said Cook and Hinkle posted bond prior to incarceration.

Yesterday (Friday), the pair made their first appearance in Hertford County District Court where Judge Rob Lewis set a July 19 court date.

&uot;We’ve been investigating animal cruelty and illegal disposal of dead animals within our city for the last four weeks,&uot; Fitzhugh said. &uot;Our investigators determined that these incidents were occurring every Wednesday for approximately one month.&uot;

During the month-long investigation, the exact number of dead dogs discovered in at least two commercial dumpsters in Ahoskie is not known, but it said to be in excess of 100.

The arrests came after law enforcement officials with the Ahoskie Police and Bertie County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday were able to observe a white panel van drive next to the commercial dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center. A person in the van tossed several dark-colored bags in the dumpster before the van attempted to pull away.

At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van – a vehicle occupied by Cook and Hinkle.

The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead dogs were found in the van.

A license check revealed the van was registered to PETA in Norfolk, Va. It is confirmed that Cook and Hinkle are official representatives of the animal rights group.

PETA has suspended Hinkle in lieu of their own investigation. Cook remains actively employed with the Norfolk, Va. based organization.

Detective Sgt. Ed Pittman of the Bertie Sheriff’s Office confirmed, through the county’s Animal Control Officer, that Cook and Hinkle identified themselves as PETA representatives from Norfolk, Va.

&uot;According to Barry (Anderson, Bertie’s Animal Officer), the man and woman told him they were picking up the dogs to take them back to Norfolk where they would find them good homes,&uot; Pittman said.

Pittman added that as far as he knew, persons identifying themselves as PETA representatives had picked-up live dogs at the Bertie Animal Shelter for at least the last two months.

Anderson, also involved in Wednesday’s surveillance and subsequent arrest, was able to positively identify nearly all of the dogs found in the dumpster as the ones picked-up just a few hours earlier on Wednesday by Cook and Hinkle.

Anderson noted that he collected some of the dogs found in the dumpster earlier in the day on Wednesday at various locations in Bertie County.

&uot;Barry documents the animals as they are received at the animal shelter,&uot; Pittman noted.

Two of the 31 dogs were kept for an autopsy. The remainder were properly buried on Town of Ahoskie property.

Chief Fitzhugh praised the work of his lead investigator, Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts, as well as the outstanding cooperation between his agency and Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins and his investigators.