June 21, 2005 - In a development stunning even to those who actively follow the outrageous exploits of animal rights extremists, two full-time staff members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), based in Norfolk, Virginia, have been charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty after allegedly killing and disposing of 31 dead animals in a grocery store dumpster late last week. The Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) today called for a federal investigation into these actions and greater scrutiny of potentially-related actions.

Authorities in Ahoskie, North Carolina have publicly charged the PETA employees, Andrew Benjamin Cook and Adria Joy Hinkle, with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty after the duo allegedly dumped 7 puppies and 11 other pets in a grocery store dumpster. When the authorities searched their van, registered to PETA, the authorities found another 13 dead pets, including two kittens which a local veterinarian is quoted as being ''very adoptable.'' We understand that only hours earlier, Cook and Hinkle picked up the animals from the local shelter, identifying themselves as PETA employees, claming they would find the animals ''good homes.''

This incident may be part of a pattern. According to news reports, the grocery store manager in indicated that the duo had illicitly used his dumpster as an impromptu pet cemetery nine times. Other similar reports come from Greenville, North Carolina where authorities discovered more than 70 dead animals last month which they believe to be connected to PETA. Likewise, this spring, authorities found over 150 dead dogs dumped in trash bags near a riverbank in Scott County, Virginia.

For years PETA has portrayed itself as a champion of animal rights, attacking American farmers and ranchers who care for their animals. The Alliance submits PETA's ''champion'' status would be highly misleading if the organization is actively involved in the destruction of highly adoptable puppies and kittens.

Based on these incidents, the Alliance recommends that the authorities re-examine PETA for defrauding its donors. In a recent fundraising letter, PETA claims ''every dollar you send is put to work instantly sponsoring crucial legal cases, public education, and veterinary care.'' The Alliance believes that killing puppies and kittens, then discarding them in dumpsters would not meet anyone's standards of veterinary care.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) finds this pattern of deception, collection and systematic slaughter both highly alarming and sickening. A complete investigation, including whether anyone else at PETA is culpable, should be immediately initiated.