Dumping cases are similar

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

AHOSKIE – David Harrell claims there are similarities in several incidents concerning the discovery of dead animals in Ahoskie dumpsters.

Harrell, the owner of D&E Properties, a local business that manages Newmarket Shopping Center and Ahoskie Commons Shopping Center, told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald he remembers approximately nine instances over an 18-month period where dead animals have been found in commercial dumpsters located on the properties his company manages.

In each case, Harrell alleges the same type of garbage bags were found with the dead animals inside. He also pointed to the day of the week (Wednesday) in which these dead animals were allegedly dumped.

&uot;All of the animals we removed from the dumpsters were in black, commercial-strength garbage bags,&uot; Harrell said. &uot;They were the real, heavy-duty bags, the type that a person can’t tear open with their hands. You have to use a knife to open these bags.&uot;

He continued, &uot;Wednesdays seemed to be the popular day for the dumping to occur. We would check the dumpsters first thing on Thursday mornings and, sure enough, there were the black bags containing the dead animals.&uot;

Late on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 15, Ahoskie Police officers discovered the same type of bags in a commercial dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center.

A joint investigation between the Ahoskie Police and the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office led to surveillance set-up on that particular day where a white panel van was observed stopping alongside the dumpster. A person in the van tossed several dark-colored bags in the dumpster before the vehicle attempted to pull away.

A traffic stop was initiated on the van – a vehicle registered to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) based in Norfolk, Va. The van was occupied by Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of 504 Tree Top Street, Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of 1602 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, Va..

They were arrested and charged with 62 combined felony charges of cruelty to animals and eight counts each of illegal disposal of animals, a misdemeanor. An additional charge of illegal trespassing was later filed against both individuals.

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, along with a digital camera and a tackle box containing numerous items.

The Ahoskie Police executed a search warrant to obtain the images on the camera while the tackle box items are currently being examined by the SBI Crime Lab in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, Harrell stated he received a letter from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, one citing PETA’s willingness to reimburse Harrell for his expenses in removing the animals.

The News-Herald obtained a copy of Newkirk’s June 20 letter to Harrell. It states, &uot;If it is true, as it appears, that our staff members have done this, PETA owes you a huge apology. Such conduct is hideous and absolutely violates PETA policy. Although the case is still pending, I would like to pay for any expenses that you might have incurred in dealing with body disposal or related matters. Please let me have a bill for that and I will see that it is promptly attended to.&uot;

However, Harrell’s company did not incur any costs in removing the animals from the Piggly Wiggly dumpster on June 15. That chore was handled by the Town of Ahoskie, who provided a backhoe and a Public Works Department employee.

The 18 animals found in the dumpster plus the 13 discovered later in the van were all taken to the old Ahoskie Wastewater Treatment plant and properly buried by town employees.

Harrell said he did not solicit PETA for any sort of reimbursement. He added that he was unclear if the letter was addressing the dead animals he found in the earlier incidents.

&uot;We’ve been involved in the 8-to-9 other times that dead animals were removed from the dumpsters at the shopping centers,&uot; Harrell noted. &uot;When the dead animals were found during the three weeks leading up to the arrest of the two PETA workers, the town handled that removal and burial as well. We took care of things prior to the most recent stretch of four straight weeks where dead animals were found. I can recall at least three times before that when I had to tie-up my workers in removing and burying the animals.&uot;

But Harrell stopped short of blaming PETA for those previous discoveries.

&uot;It’s not for me to say or decide whether PETA was involved in those, that’s a job for the police and the courts to decide,&uot; he said.

Harrell said in each case he was involved in, approximately 20-to-23 animals were found. He said most, in his opinion, appeared healthy.

When contacted for a comment on Tuesday, Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s Director of Domestic Animals and Wildlife, said while she hasn’t seen a copy of Newkirk’s letter to Harrell, she felt certain Newkirk was addressing the June 15 incident.

&uot;Again, we apologize for what happened in Ahoskie on June 15,&uot; Nachminovitch said. &uot;I can’t tell you why Adria did what she stands accused of.&uot; (PETA has maintained throughout that Cook was an innocent ‘ride-along’ on that day.)

She continued, &uot;All I can say that on this particular day, Adria broke a matter of trust. She has made many visits to the animal shelters in your area and has returned to Norfolk with those animals.&uot;

In explaining PETA’s record-keeping procedures, Nachminovitch said a log was kept at the animal shelter by the county’s Animal Control Officer. She further explained that the PETA employee picking-up those animals are required to log in the number of animals they bring in daily to the PETA office in Norfolk. When an animal is euthanized at the office, that paperwork is forwarded to Virginia authorities.

Nachminovitch said this one incident has greatly impacted the work PETA has done over the past few years in northeastern North Carolina. Two counties, Bertie and Northampton, recently ended their animal collection agreements with PETA.

&uot;We built mutual relationships with those counties,&uot; she noted. &uot;We made it clear from the start that not all of the animals we were picking-up would find adoptive homes. Those that didn’t would be humanely euthanized. We felt we were making a difference, an impact on the well-being of the animals there as well as helping to educate the animal owners on safe and proper measures to help bring the animal overpopulation problem under control.&uot;