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Dumpster dog deemed healthy

AHOSKIE – At least one of the dogs found dead in an Ahoskie dumpster on June 15 has been diagnosed as healthy.

That is according to an autopsy performed by the North Carolina Medical Board. They forwarded their findings to Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh who had solicited the Medical Board’s assistance to help determine the cause of death of 31 animals in the care of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

&uot;From the report I received from the Medical Board, other than having fleas, there was nothing wrong with the dog we sent to the Medical Board for an autopsy,&uot; Fitzhugh said. &uot;They said the dog was in good health. It had some fleas, but not to the point where that would pose a life-threatening situation.&uot;

The autopsy did reveal a puncture wound on the dog’s front right paw. It is not known if that wound is consistent with a mark left by the insertion of a needle.

However, several items found in a tackle box in a van operated by PETA employees Adria Joy Hinkle and Andrew Benjamin Cook were seized and inventoried by Ahoskie Police Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts, including vials of a liquid-like substance as well as syringes. Roberts said all of those items were sent to the SBI lab in Raleigh from where the Ahoskie Police awaits a final report.

Meanwhile, Fitzhugh said he was in contact with the School of Veterinary Medicine at NC State University in regards to locating a lab that could perform toxicology tests on the same dog.

&uot;Those tests will hopefully determine the exact cause of death,&uot; Fitzhugh noted.

If it is determined that the cause of death is linked to the substance found in the tackle box, Fitzhugh said other charges may lodged against Hinkle and Cook. Citing information gained through the North Carolina Board of Veterinary Medicine, Fitzhugh said neither Hinkle nor Cook is certified to euthanize animals in North Carolina.

&uot;In our state, only a licensed veterinarian is certified to use the drugs necessary to put an animal down by the euthanasia process,&uot; Fitzhugh said.

Currently, Hinkle, of Norfolk, Va., and Cook, a Virginia Beach, Va. resident, are each free on a $35,500 bond on a combined 62 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts each of illegal disposal of dead animals. An additional charge of illegal trespassing was filed June 17 against both individuals.

Hinkle and Cook are scheduled to appear July 19 in Hertford County District Court to answer those charges.

Fitzhugh made no other statement concerning the case against the two PETA workers, including any update on what was found on a digital camera discovered in the van at the time of arrest. The Ahoskie Police obtained a warrant to retrieve the images recorded on the camera.

In an earlier statement regarding the case, one that has attracted national attention, Fitzhugh said three key facts were known. (1) The animals were alive when they were picked up on June 15 from the Bertie County Animal Shelter. (2) The incident involving the dumping of these animals occurred at 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, June 15. There have been some reports that said this incident occurred at night. (3) The Ahoskie Police know at the time of the arrest that a female was operating the van and a male was a passenger.

The arrests came after law enforcement officials with the Ahoskie Police and Bertie County Sheriff’s Office on June 15 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 vehicle attempted to pull away.

At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van – a vehicle registered to PETA and 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.

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

Prior to the June 15 arrests, the Ahoskie Police were actively investigating the dumping of dead animals in a commercial dumpster in town during each of the three previous weeks. Since the arrests, no dead animals have been discovered in Ahoskie dumpsters.