A federal court in Virginia has taken the extraordinary step of granting the Department of Justice a temporary restraining order against a facility in Cumberland, Virginia, that breeds and sells beagles for experimentation. The court ordered the facility, operated by Envigo, to immediately cease those activities while taking immediate steps to comply with the Animal Welfare Act’s requirements regarding humane treatment.
The DOJ noted that Envigo had been cited for more than 60 violations over the preceding 10 months. The court’s order offers a chilling account of conditions at the facility:
Over 300 beagle puppies have died onsite due to “unknown causes” over seven months. Many were not given anesthesia before they were euthanized by intracardiac injection. Beagles with even minor injuries or easily treated medical conditions were euthanized rather than given veterinary care. Nursing female beagles were denied food … . The food that the beagles did receive was observed to contain live insects, worms, maggots, beetles, flies, ants, mold, and feces. … Over an eight-week period, 25 beagle puppies died from cold exposure. The enclosures were overcrowded. The facility was understaffed. Inspectors found over 900 beagle and beagle puppy records to be incomplete or inaccurate. The list of serious violations … goes on and on.
The order followed execution of a federal search warrant at the facility, during which law enforcement officers seized a total of 446 dogs and puppies (including 145 on the first day) needing immediate care to “alleviate life-threatening illnesses or injuries,” and identified many others requiring medical attention. To argue for the restraining order, the DOJ included a necropsy report—completed two days before the raid began—that exemplified the extent of the catastrophic neglect, abuse, and suffering. A puppy’s cause of death was “unknown” because they had been “eaten—only has a head left.”
AWI had previously urged the USDA to rigorously enforce the law and revoke Envigo’s license. Unfortunately, action was taken only after the DOJ, working with the Commonwealth of Virginia, stepped in, supported by the very same inspection reports that the USDA created but failed to act upon for 10 months. While the seizure and restraining order are welcome developments after the appalling delay, the government’s action remains incomplete: Even after the suffering and death of untold numbers of dogs, Envigo retains possession of its breeder license and thousands of dogs at this horrific facility.
In May, National Geographic published an in-depth story on Envigo and its parent, Inotiv—a fast-growing multinational company that “reported $89.6 million in revenue last year” and “owns about 62,000 animals.” The article exposes the USDA’s inexplicable refusal to act on Envigo and repeatedly quotes AWI, including our calling the situation an “unprecedented, unmitigated disaster.” Referencing the magazine’s October 2021 investigation, the article also states that “National Geographic has documented a pattern of USDA failure to take action over animal welfare violations during the past several years, marked by a 90 percent drop in enforcement actions against licensed animal facilities between 2015 and 2020.”
A more detailed report on this unfolding story will appear in the next issue of the AWI Quarterly. In the interim, we recommend reading the National Geographic article: on.natgeo.com/3N7s7JQ.