Excerpted from Friendly Fire by Nathan & Jennifer Winograd.
In May of 2005, the bodies of dead dogs and cats began turning up in the trash bin of a supermarket in North Carolina. Local police conducted a stake out and eventually arrested two PETA staff members after a sting operation. The PETA van pulled up in front of the trash bin, and the two began filling it with garbage bags that contained the bodies of dead animals. Following is an account of the incident as reported in the Roanoke News Herald on January 24, 2007:
[Ahoskie Police Detective Sgt. Jeremy] Roberts said he became involved in the case on May 19, 2005 after being dispatched to an area behind the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket in Ahoskie’s New Market Shopping Center. There he was met by Kevin Wrenn of D&E Properties, a local firm that handles the maintenance of the shopping center. During his early morning rounds disposing of trash, Wrenn had discovered what appeared to be some sort of animal in a trash bag that was tossed in the dumpster behind Piggly Wiggly.
“I immediately noticed a strong odor coming from the dumpster,” Roberts said. Probing inside the dumpster, Roberts discovered 20, heavy duty trash bags. He eventually discovered a total of 21 dead dogs inside those bags.
After using the Town of Ahoskie’s help to bury the dogs at the town’s old landfill, Roberts told [the District Attorney] he launched an investigation of how the dead dogs wound-up in an Ahoskie dumpster. He said he checked with the local animal hospitals and animal shelters to inquire of how they discarded of dead animals.
Two weeks later (June 2, 2005) dead animals—17 dogs and three cats—were discovered within 20 bags in the same dumpster. Photographing the dead animals, Roberts took those photographs to Bertie County Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson from whom Roberts had learned was working with PETA through an agreement to come to the Bertie shelter to collect unwanted, unclaimed animals. Anderson told Roberts he could not positively identify the animals by the photos.
Another report of dead animals found in the same dumpster came in on June 9. Eighteen bags containing 20 dead dogs were discovered…
After further investigation, two PETA employees, [Adria] Hinkle and [Andrew] Cook, became the subject of police surveillance. Detective Roberts further testified:
Upon picking-up and transporting an injured dog to the Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH), the PETA van in which Hinkle and Cook were traveling was followed by Bertie Sheriff’s detectives Frank Timberlake and Marty Northcott. While at AAH, employees there, through a pre-arranged pick-up, released a mother cat and two kittens to Hinkle and Cook.
The van traveled back to the Bertie shelter where Hinkle and Cook took possession of several animals. At some point (PETA officials attending the trial said it occurred in the van while parked at the Bertie shelter), all of the animals were euthanized by Hinkle.
After leaving the shelter, the van was tailed as it made its way to Ahoskie. The van turned into New Market Shopping Center and headed behind Piggly Wiggly. There, according to Roberts, a female, later identified as Hinkle, was behind the wheel. She made a u-turn and parked the side doors of the van next to the door of the dumpster.
Roberts said while he and Bertie Sheriff’s Detective Ed Pittman were approaching the van on foot from their surveillance locations behind the grocery store, he could hear the “thump, thump” of heavy objects striking the bottom of the empty dumpster.
Before the two lawmen could reach the van, it took off, heading out the same way it entered the back area of the grocery store. At that time he made contact with Timberlake who performed a traffic stop on the van while it was still in the New Market parking lot.
Meanwhile, Roberts performed a brief search of the dumpster, discovering the same type of trash bags found during the previous three weeks. At that point he placed Hinkle and Cook under arrest.
Dressed later in a hazmat suit, Roberts retrieved nine trash bags containing 16 dead dogs. Those animals, like their predecessors, were taken to the old landfill for burial. However, this time Anderson was at the burial site documenting the animals as they were removed from the bags. He confirmed they were the same animals picked-up earlier that day by Hinkle and Cook at the Bertie shelter.
A short while later as Roberts said he was preparing to inventory the van, held at the Ahoskie Police Department, he discovered another 12 bags containing eight dogs and 14 cats inside the van. Roberts confirmed that the mother cat and two kittens picked-up from AAH were among the dead animals.
Roberts also revealed during his testimony that he took into evidence several items found in the van. Included were boxes of trash bags, PETA manuals, doggie treats, cat food, animal toys, leashes and a tackle box containing syringes, needles and bottles of liquid substance, later determined by the SBI Lab in Raleigh as the drugs used to euthanize animals.
Testimony at the trial would show that some of the animals were in no danger of being killed before PETA took possession of them. Dr. Patrick Proctor, the veterinarian who gave PETA a mother cat and two kittens whom PETA promptly killed, said that PETA had promised him they would find the animals homes. “They came to the office last Wednesday and picked up the cat and two kittens…. They were just kittens we were trying to find homes for. PETA said they would do that…” said Proctor. “So imagine my surprise when I learned they allegedly dumped dead animals in a trash bin later that same day.”
Proctor also stated that the animals “were in good health and were very adoptable, especially the kittens.” And after Proctor was asked to examine one of the dead animals taken from the PETA crime scene, he told a local television station that, “The animal that I found was a very healthy six-month puppy that had been killed that day. It was a six-month-old lab mix and appeared to be in very good shape… and he had received some type of injection in his front right leg. PETA will never pick up another animal from my practice.” Both Hinkle and Cook would themselves go on to describe some of the animals they killed as having been “perfect” and “adorable.”* So why was PETA killing animals, sometimes within mere minutes of having promised that they would find the animals homes?
As surprising as the incidents described above may be, they in fact detail what has been business as usual by PETA employees for many years. PETA systematically seeks out, then kills, roughly 2,000 animals every year. Over 27,000 animals have died at the hands of PETA employees over the last decade alone. While communities across the country are ending the killing of healthy and treatable animals, with save rates as high as 98 percent, in 2011, PETA killed 96 percent of all dogs and cats and 93 percent of other companion animals such as rabbits that it took in, despite revenues of over 30 million dollars a year and millions of animal-loving members.
When PETA representatives have been questioned about this killing, they’ve argued that all of the animals they kill are “unadoptable.” But this claim is a lie for numerous reasons. It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable, as detailed above, and PETA insiders have admitted as much, one former intern reporting that he quit in disgust after witnessing perfectly healthy puppies and kittens in the kill room. It is a lie because there are over half a dozen shelters in Virginia where PETA is located which are now saving upwards of 90 percent of all animals they take in, while PETA, in that same state, is killing that many. It is a lie because Virginia shelters as a whole are saving 56 percent of the animals they take in, and many of those are doing so without even really trying. It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making the determination as to whether or not an animal is “unadoptable.” It is a lie because according to a state inspector, the PETA facility where the animals are impounded was designed to house animals for no more than 24 hours. It is a lie because Newkirk herself admitted as much during a 2008 television interview: when asked whether or not PETA kills healthy animals, she responded, “Absolutely.” And it is a lie because when asked what sort of effort PETA routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care, PETA responded that it had “no comment.” Despite the public perception of PETA as a radical “animal rights” organization, in practice, the organization is itself the functional equivalent of a slaughterhouse.
PETA has long been one of the No Kill movement’s most vociferous opponents. For years, PETA has advocated that feral cats and dogs labeled as “Pit Bulls” should be systematically put to death. They have been an outspoken advocate for killing shelters, even coming to their defense when they are cruel and neglectful, as they did in King County, Washington—a place where animals were not fed, were allowed to suffer with untreated injuries, and were neglected and even abused by staff. In that case, PETA wrote a letter to King County officials that referred to No Kill advocates as “radical,” and urged the County not to give in to their efforts to reform the pound. In addition, PETA employees keep tabs on No Kill efforts nationwide so that they can undermine reformers by writing letters to the editor of local newspapers that equate No Kill with hoarding and animal abuse, and which lie about No Kill and its successes across the country. And when it comes to working at PETA, employees who have expressed support for No Kill have been fired.
In some ways PETA’s behavior towards the No Kill movement mirrors that of other large animal protection groups which likewise oppose it, and while PETA also wraps the killing that they do in the language of sheltering by blaming “pet overpopulation,” PETA’s killing and the positions they take are motivated by something far more nefarious than narrow self-interest and indifference. PETA does not perform animal control for the community in which they are located. They are not under any mandate—municipal or otherwise—to operate as a “shelter.” PETA seeks out and takes in animals for primarily one purpose: to kill them.
Ingrid Newkirk founded PETA after a job working at the Washington Humane Society where she killed animals. It was a job she has admitted to doing with relish, explaining how she often came into work early to do it. She has stated that she does not believe that animals have a right to live, and that, in fact, animals want to die, calling killing “a gift.” Perhaps most disturbing of all, she has recruited a legion of cult-like devotees who actively seek out then kill thousands of animals every year at her behest.
How has this been allowed to continue? Where is the outcry from animal rights leaders, from more of PETA’s former employees? Tragically, leadership at other animal rights organizations have known for years that this is going on. They know PETA kills healthy animals and yet they all, collectively, look the other way and ignore it. In fact, in spite of this knowledge, one of the nation’s oldest so-called animal rights organizations, Farm Animal Reform Movement, has even inducted Newkirk into their “Animal Rights Hall of Fame.”
It is not clear whether all PETA employees participate in the killing or just a select few who have been handpicked by Newkirk (although the silence and complicity of every PETA employee makes them as much to blame for the killing as those who actually inject the animals with poison). This fact, combined with the climate of fear and intimidation for which Newkirk is infamous—routinely sending letters threatening legal action to any animal lover who publicly condemns PETA’s killing and firing employees who support No Kill—may explain why few have come forward to provide more details.
But of this much we are certain: approximately 2,000 animals cross PETA’s threshold every year, and very few make it out alive. The vast majority—96 percent in 2011—exit the facility dead when Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater stops by on their regular visits to pick up their remains. Between these visits, the bodies are stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA’s victims, was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead.
* Since PETA registers as a shelter in Virginia, the PETA employees were acquitted at trial and on appeal because it is not illegal for them to kill animals, another reason why shelter reform laws are needed across the country.
Please note: Photograph of Det. Roberts in a hazmat suit with dead puppy copyrighted by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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