updated 2/1/2007 7:33:57 PM ET 2007-02-02T00:33:57

An animal-rights worker charged with dumping the bodies of euthanized dogs and cats apologized in court Thursday, saying she left the carcasses in a trash bin because they stank.

Adria J. Hinkle denied, however, that she had ever promised overwhelmed animal shelters in northeastern North Carolina that the animals taken by her group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, would not be euthanized.

Hinkle and Andrew B. Cook, both PETA workers, are on trial on 21 counts of animal cruelty, along with charges of littering and obtaining property by false pretenses.

They were arrested in June 2005, after police said they saw them dump bags of dead animals and found more dead animals in their van.

Hinkle testified that she and Cook euthanized the animals in the back of her van. She said they were supposed to bring the carcasses back to PETA’s offices in Norfolk, Va., but that the stench in her van had overwhelmed her in the past.

“The smell was so bad that it was hard to drive home,” Hinkle testified.

She said she and Cook decided to drop the animal carcasses into a bin behind a grocery store in Hertford County, about 50 miles southwest of Norfolk. The animals came from shelters in Hertford County and adjacent Bertie County.

Hinkle, 28, of Norfolk, said Thursday she regretted the decision and that it was disrespectful to the community.

Cook, of Virginia Beach, Va., was testifying later Thursday.

PETA says it was clear about using euthanasia
At least one veterinarian has said that PETA had assured them that the animals they turned over to the group would be taken to a no-kill shelter. A PETA official, however, testified earlier that she had made clear that some of the animals would have to be put down.

Hinkle testified that although PETA was trying to ensure more humane treatment of animals at the shelters, euthanization was still necessary and she does not consider it cruelty.

“No one wants to do it,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of cruelty and neglect.”

She recalled tearfully that one of the animals she euthanized was a dog with two embedded collars cutting into its neck.

Hinkle is on administrative leave from PETA. Cook continues to work for PETA in another capacity.

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