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Trial takes emotional twist

WINTON – Her voice mumbled the word “yes” and the tears began to flow as the trial against two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) employees took an emotional turn here Friday afternoon.

Susan Dunlow, a veterinary technician employed at Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH), was moved to tears when she positively identified a photograph of three dead cats that were allegedly killed by PETA employees Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook on June 15, 2005.

Hinkle and Cook are on trial in Hertford County Criminal Superior Court on several charges, including 21 counts each of felony animal cruelty. Among the animals they allegedly killed were a mother cat and her two kittens which Dunlow and fellow AAH co-worker Theresa Ray say Hinkle and Cook picked-up on that June day in 2005.

The cat and kittens were discovered among dead animals found in the back of a van, registered to PETA, occupied by Hinkle and Cook. Other animals the duo allegedly collected that day from the Bertie Animal Shelter were found dead inside a trash dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly Supermarket in Ahoskie’s New Market Shopping Center.

Dunlow testified seeing Hinkle and Cook at AAH on June 15, 2005. She said they brought in an injured boxer for medical treatment and were also there to pick-up the cats through a pre-arranged deal.

According to Dunlow’s testimony, upon being provided a cat carrier from the van, AAH employee Tonya Northcott went to the back of the office, retrieved the cat and kittens and placed them in the carrier.

“Tonya was holding the cat carrier up and Adria looked in and said, ‘Oh, they’re so cute’,” Dunlow testified.

Dunlow continued by saying the cat/kittens were very healthy and very socialized. She added that Hinkle made the comment that she wouldn’t have any trouble in finding someone to adopt the animals.

Dunlow added it wasn’t until the next day (June 16, 2005) that she learned the fate of the cat/kittens.

Under cross examination by Hinkle’s defense attorney Blair Brown, Dunlow verified that June 15, 2005 was not the first time she had seen Hinkle at AAH. She said Hinkle’s previous visits could have been to drop-off an injured animal or in regards to a spay or neuter work order.

Brown asked if there were any records kept by AAH on the cat/kittens. She said there were none since the animals were strays that the AAH employees worked with on their own time.

Dunlow said it was to her understanding (not from information provided by Hinkle) that PETA gives healthy animals a chance to be adopted. She said she was hopeful that in a large area such as Norfolk, Va., there would be a better success rate for adopting animals.

“They (Hinkle and Cook) never told me that they took these animals and killed them before crossing the state line,” Dunlow said.

Cook’s attorney, Mark Edwards, asked Dunlow was she emotionally attached to the cat and two kittens.

“I’m a cat lover by nature,” Dunlow replied.

Stressing the fact that AAH was having trouble in finding homes for the cat and kittens, Edwards asked Dunlow did she feel AAH was getting to a point where they had to do something to dispose of the animals.

“You couldn’t keep them in a cage forever,” Edwards suggested.

In a re-direct by District 6B Attorney Valerie Mitchell Asbell, she asked Dunlow if she knew what Hinkle was planning to do with the cat/kittens, would she have turned them over.

“Absolutely not,” Dunlow answered.

Earlier during Friday’s testimony, Ray took the stand, saying she had made a call to PETA headquarters in Norfolk to arrange for someone to stop at AAH and pick-up the mother cat and two kittens. She said this wasn’t the first time she had contacted PETA regarding the pick-up of animals.

“We would call and they (PETA) would come and make the pick-up,” Ray said. “We knew PETA would find good homes for the animals.”

Echoing what Dunlow had said earlier, Ray testified that Hinkle looked at the cat/kittens in the carrier held by Northcott and said, “We shouldn’t have any trouble finding homes for these.”

Cross examined by Brown, Ray confirmed that she had other dealings with PETA other than animal pick-up. She said she scheduled spay and neuter appointments, paid for by PETA, and verified that her AAH employer, Dr. Pat Proctor, was paid by PETA to euthanize animals at the Hertford County Pound.

Returning to the issue about the cat/kittens, Brown said, “You know there was no guarantee that PETA would find good homes (for the animals).”

Ray replied by saying, “Yes, I knew that, but I thought they would have given them a chance.”

“You knew if homes couldn’t be found then they would be euthanized,” Brown asked.

“Yes, eventually, but not right then,” Ray answered. “They didn’t give them a chance.”