Unwanted pets deserved better fate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2005

Why do I love the newspaper profession so much? It’s because you never know what tomorrow holds in store.

Who in their right mind would have thought that tiny Ahoskie would be thrust in the national spotlight on a lazy mid-June afternoon? But we did when two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) workers were witnessed tossing dead pets into a dumpster.

Not since the late, great Jim &uot;Catfish&uot; Hunter placed Ahoskie in the middle of the media spotlight when he opted to become a free agent (his lawyer, the late Carlton Cherry, lived and worked here) has this town received so much national attention.

However, last week’s spotlight lacked the brilliance of Hunter’s good news. Rather, it focused on two individuals, neither from our neck of the woods, who, for reasons not yet known, decided to take the fate of animals into their own hands.

Sure, it’s a no-brainer that the majority of these dogs and cats were taking the final ride of their respective lives as Andrew Benjamin Cook and Adria Joy Hinkle made their way along US 13, traveling northward from the Bertie County Animal Shelter back to PETA’s home base in Norfolk, Va.

Most of the four-legged creatures onboard had been discarded by their owners. Some were sick, perhaps too ill to carry on with a happy life.

But despite that, neither Cook nor Hinkle had the right or, according to PETA officials, the permission to end those lives. What possessed these two trusted members of an international animal rights group to do something totally against what PETA stands for is a question still unanswered.

What puzzles me the most is why didn’t Cook and Hinkle simply complete their journey to Norfolk? There, a PETA veterinarian could undertake the responsibility of properly assessing the health condition of the 31 animals and pass along a recommendation of either adoption or euthanasia.

However, somewhere between Windsor and Ahoskie, the fate of these animals was decided. Not only were those dogs and cats injected with lethal doses of medication, the 31 pets were placed into garbage bags. Eighteen animals were tossed in a dumpster – not exactly the most humane of burial procedures. Seven puppies, all earlier in the day last Wednesday were playing in a yard in Lewiston-Woodville prior to an order for pick-up by the Bertie County Animal Control Officer, were crowded into one bag.

Thirteen other animals were found in the van in which Cook and Hinkle were operating. Inside one bag was a mother cat and two kittens, both left in PETA’s care by Ahoskie veterinarian Dr. Patrick Proctor. He had called PETA to pick-up the animals, left with him as strays. He said all were adoptable.

They, like the dogs, wound-up dead and discarded.

The actions of these two people are incomprehensible. Granted, their jobs are not pleasant, especially in lieu of their much-publicized love of all animals. But to carry out those duties in the back of a van while traveling down the road and then to toss the dead animals into a dumpster, causing a public health hazard in the process, is hard to forgive or to forget.

In another twist, dead animals were found in commercial dumpsters in Ahoskie each of the three weeks prior to last Wednesday’s arrest. It is not known if Cook or Hinkle were involved in those incidents, but ironically they each occurred on a Wednesday – the same day PETA makes its weekly visit to the Bertie County Animal Shelter to collect unwanted or unclaimed pets.

The case now moves to Hertford County court on July 19 where the pair will answer to the combined 62 felony charges of animal cruelty and 16 misdemeanor counts of illegal disposal. It will be interesting to see if the animal cruelty charges stick, but that’s a news story for yet another day.