Jury acquits PETA employees of animal cruelty

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A jury in February acquitted two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on animal cruelty charges, bringing an end to a highly publicized trial for an animal rights organization that is no stranger to controversy.

A Hertford County, North Carolina, jury returned a unanimous "not guilty" verdict Feb. 1 against Adria J. Hinkle and her PETA co-worker, Andrew Cook. They were charged in June 2005 with multiple counts of animal cruelty after Ahoskie police found the two had been dumping dog and cat carcasses in a garbage bin for several weeks.

The dogs and cats were from animal shelters in two nearby counties. Cook and Hinkle had been picking up animals in northeastern North Carolina since 2001 to be euthanized at PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Va. (see JAVMA, Dec. 1, 2005).

Prior to jury deliberations, the eight felony animal cruelty charges that each defendant faced were reduced to misdemeanors. Hinkle was also charged with three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense. A similar charge against Cook had been dismissed.

The verdict was "not guilty" on the animal cruelty charges and Hinkle's false pretense charges. Each defendant was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of littering, however.

Superior Court Judge Cy Grant sentenced Hinkle and Cook to suspended 10-day jail sentences, 12 months' probation, 50 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine, and nearly $3,000 in restitution.