Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were charged with animal cruelty for allegedly picking up dogs and cats from shelters and...

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AHOSKIE, N.C. — Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were charged with animal cruelty for allegedly picking up dogs and cats from shelters and dumping their dead bodies in the garbage.

Police said they found 18 dead animals in the bin and 13 more in a van registered to the activist group, all from shelters in the state’s northeastern corner.

Investigators arrested the two workers after staking out a garbage bin where animals had previously been dumped, police said yesterday.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said the workers were picking up animals to be brought to PETA headquarters for euthanization. Veterinarians and animal-control officers said the PETA workers had promised to find homes for the animals rather than euthanize them, according to police.

Neither police nor PETA offered any theory on why the animals might have been dumped.

PETA spokeswoman Colleen O’Brien said the organization euthanizes animals by lethal injection, which it considers more humane than gassing animals in groups, as some counties do.

Police charged Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of Norfolk, Va., each with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts of illegal disposal of dead animals. They were released on bond.

A message left for Cook at PETA headquarters was not returned. A PETA spokesman said he did not know how to reach Hinkle.