Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are urging a federal agency to suspend and move to revoke the license of Envigo’s Cumberland County facility, condemning its “continued horrific mistreatment” of beagle dogs and puppies it breeds for research.
The senators said that under federal law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service could seek up to $730,000 in penalties from Envigo “for its repeated noncompliance” with the Animal Welfare Act.
The senators, both Virginia Democrats, are urging the agency to act after multiple federal inspections found more than 70 animal welfare violations at the Cumberland site, including instances of puppies being euthanized without anesthesia.
Last year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals conducted an undercover investigation at the facility, citing mistreatment among 5,000 beagle dogs and puppies bred and housed at the site. PETA posted disturbing video of beagles housed in what it called a “prison like factory.”
Four federal inspections have resulted in dozens of reported violations at the site.
Mortality records at the facility showed that from Jan. 1, 2021, to July 22, “over 300 puppy deaths were attributed to unknown causes, however, the facility has not taken additional steps to determine the causes of death in order to prevent similar deaths of other puppies in the future,” according to a July inspection report by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
A November inspection report on the facility found that “many young puppies are not receiving anesthesia” before being euthanized. The report also found that euthanasia injections without proper veterinary care “have been found to be painful, stressful, and uncomfortable” and frequently have caused “unnecessary pain and distress.”
The report found that 30 beagles between ages 2 and 7 showed signs of severe dental disease, and assorted others had problems with their feet, eyes and skin.
An inspection report on the facility released in March found that dozens of dogs were injured in fights, several got their feet stuck in the flooring of kennels, and inspectors noted instances of “wet food with varying amounts of mold.”
“These dogs, they never saw what grass was like,” the state senator said. “They never knew what their noses were good for. They never knew freedom on a leash to walk around.”
“It is clear to us that Envigo has been derelict in its duty to provide for the humane care of its dogs, and is unable to abide by the basic standards set forth by the Animal Welfare Act,” Warner and Kaine wrote to Kevin Shea, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
On its website, Envigo tells researchers that it is important to partner with “a supplier whose social housing solutions nurture and promote healthy, well-socialized animals.” It asserts that “the purebred beagles at our Cumberland, Virginia location develop in a dynamic social housing environment.”
Envigo said in a statement that more than 480 of its dogs are finding homes through partnerships with adoption agencies. It said that over the past four months, it has reduced the number of older, non-breeding dogs on-site by more 1,300, and its goal is to have fewer than 100 at any time. Envigo also said it has improved the ratio of caretakers to dogs and expects to achieve its goal of 100:1 in the second quarter of 2022.
A group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now has lodged multiple federal complaints against Envigo with the USDA’s director of animal care operations. It has called for the confiscation of all dogs in need of veterinary care, license revocation and for fines that it says could reach “$10,000 per infraction/per animal.”
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Abuses of beagles bred for research at the facility prompted a bipartisan effort in the regular General Assembly session that ended March 12. Sens. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, and Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, co-sponsored four measures that passed the legislature without opposition.
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The bills, awaiting action by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, would:
Stanley also has spearheaded efforts to find new homes for the more than 400 beagles removed from the facility. He and his family adopted two of the dogs.
Stanley has said anyone interested in adopting a dog from the site can contact his Senate office at (804) 698-7520 or email [email protected].