Authorities in Ahoskie, North Carolina dropped a disturbing bombshell yesterday with the news that they had charged two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty. PETA’s Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle were arrested late Wednesday night after police saw them dump bags containing seven dead puppies and 11 other dead animals in a grocery store’s dumpster. Their PETA-owned van, seized by police, contained another 13 animal bodies. Ahoskie’s police chief told reporters: “We’ve been investigating animal cruelty and illegal disposal of dead animals within our city for the last four weeks” — roughly the same period of time in which our popular PetaKillsAnimals.com website and giant Times Square billboard have been making news.

PETA Norfolk HeadquartersResponding to our website, PETA has claimed that most of the animals it kills are “broken beings” and that: “[W]e refer every healthy, cute, young animal we can to shelters.” But the dead animals included a female cat and — according to a local veterinarian — her two “very adoptable” kittens. “These were just kittens we were trying to find homes for,” he told PETA’s hometown Virginian-Pilot. “PETA said they would do that, but these cats never made it out of the county.”

PETA's Andrew Cook & Adria HinkleThe animal-control officer responsible for the county where Cook and Hinkle were arrested told the Associated Press that PETA had picked up the animals just a few hours earlier. He added that PETA’s employees “told him they were picking up the dogs to take them back to Norfolk where they would find them good homes.”

Instead, the animals wound up being treated in a decidedly unethical fashion. This morning the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald began distributing a grisly photograph showing a police detective in hazmat garb removing a puppy carcass from a garbage bag found in the now-infamous dumpster.

Last night WAVY-TV’s coverage in Norfolk included heartbreaking details from the manager of the supermarket whose dumpster became an impromptu pet cemetery. “They just slung the doors [open] and started throwing dogs … beautiful cats. I saw a [dead] beagle last week that was pregnant … last week it was 23 or 24 dogs … it’s happened to us nine times … they drove straight from there, straight here, and disposed of the dogs in 30 seconds.”

Authorities told WNCT-TV in Greenville, NC that they’ve discovered more than 70 dead animals in the last month that may be connected to PETA. WKTR-TV reported today that Cook and Hinkle are out on bond, “thanks to the President of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”

In a story that eerily resembles the current charges facing PETA’s employees, the Associated Press reported on April 8 that an additional 150 euthanized dogs were found in rural Virginia, apparently dumped in trash bags near a riverbank. The Scott County, Virginia Sheriff is investigating.