The Karnataka Police on Thursday booked a few members of the Kambadaalalu Hosur Gram Panchayat in Shivamogga district after dozens of dog carcasses were found in Hunasekatte village, the Hindustan Times reported.

The police did not provide the exact number of bodies it had recovered. The number varied from 40, according to NDTV, to 100, The Hindu reported.

The case was registered based on complaints from animal rights activists on Tuesday, according to the Hindustan Times. Volunteers searched the area after villagers had alerted them, saying they had not heard the dogs in the past few days.

“The complaint says that the killing of the dogs was ordered by the gram panchayat,” said Superintendent of Police in Shivamogga, Laxmi Prasad. “We have sought a report on the matter from a team of veterinarians on the cause of the deaths and other details. Further action will be taken based on the report.”

The gram panchayat was reportedly tasked with neutering the stray dogs, for which it had hired a contractor. The police claimed that the contractor could have aided the killings and the subsequent disposal of the bodies.

“It looks like that the contractor had culled around 30 to 40 dogs and buried there,” Prasad said. “Some gram panchayat members may also be involved.”

An activist of the Shivamogga Animal Rescue Club, GS Basva Prasad, claimed that the gram panchayat members were unaware of the neutering procedure, NDTV reported.

“So it looks like that they caught stray dogs and buried them in 20 by 20 pits,” he said.

The samples collected from carcasses were sent to a forensic laboratory to ascertain the cause of death, The Hindu reported. But experts who had visited the spot said that the bodies had been rotting over five days and thus, they were unable to ascertain the cause of death.

“Based on their advice we have collected hair, bones and other samples from the carcasses for forensic examination,” informed K Basavaraj, Bhadravathi taluk veterinary officer.

Gram panchayat officials have denied the allegations, saying they did not order the killings, the Hindustan Times reported. Kambadal Hosur Gram Panchayat’s secretary, B Manjunath, said they would help the police with the investigation.

Bhadravati Taluk Panchayat Executive Officer Ramesh told also denied any role in capture or killing of the dogs, according to The Hindu.

“It seems the animals were dumped a week ago,” Ramesh said. “We don’t know who did this. The police have booked the case. They will investigate and bring out the truth.”