Feds seize 145 dogs from research facility where hundreds died
Federal officials have accused a company that runs a Virginia facility breeding dogs for research of violating animal welfare law and recently seized at least 145 beagles found to be in “acute distress,” according to a lawsuit filed Thursday. The Envigo RMS facility is located in Cumberland County. It has been under increasing scrutiny since months. This has drawn concerns from animal rights groups, members and Virginia lawmakers who have passed animal welfare legislation this year to tighten the facility’s requirements.
Repeated federal inspections since Envigo acquired the facility in 2019 have resulted in dozens of violations, including findings that dogs had received inadequate medical care and insufficient food, were housed in filthy conditions, and some had been euthanized without first receiving anesthesia. According to inspections, hundreds of dogs were also found dead at the facility.
“Despite being on notice since July 2021 that the conditions at its Cumberland facility fall far below the (Animal Welfare Act’s) minimum standards, Envigo has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that all of the beagles at its facility are provided humane care and treatment and that the Cumberland facility is operating in compliance with the (act),” said the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Court records don’t list Envigo as an attorney. A spokesperson for Envigo stated that the company was currently working on a statement, and would respond to inquiries at some point Friday.
According to the complaint, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General officers and other law enforcement officers started executing a federal search warrant at this facility Wednesday. As of Thursday’s filing of the complaint, 145 dogs and puppies veterinarians found to be in acute distress had been seized, the lawsuit said.
The government is requesting that a judge declare Envigo has repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act and restrain the company from further violations.
“Envigo has failed to meet minimum standards for handling and housing beagles. This has led to the unnecessary suffering and sometimes death of beagles at Cumberland Facility.” the complaint stated.
According to the complaint, the facility has housed up to 5,000 beagles since July 2021. It claimed that staffing was “paltry” and that the attending veterinarian failed to provide or oversee adequate care.
” Envigo did not spend the money necessary to meet the minimum standards. Instead, Envigo employed a small number of employees and decided to euthanize or allow beagles die from malnutrition and treatable conditions.
It cites a finding from a July 2021 inspection report that found Envigo had euthanized dozens of beagles over the course of months rather than provide care for injuries caused when a body part like an ear or tail was pulled through a kennel wall by a dog next door. The complaint alleges that animal care technicians without formal training are allowed the decision to perform a necropsy on the dogs found dead.
Medical records reviewed during the July 2021 inspection indicated that for 173 puppies, Envigo staff could not identify a cause of death because the bodies had already begun decomposing. The complaint stated that inspectors found unsanitary conditions including a “extensive, widespread insect problem”, overcrowded enclosures, and accumulations of urine, feces and other waste.
Envigo, which has a business mailing address in Indiana, registered as a Virginia LLC in 2019, the complaint said. It acquired LabCorp’s Covance Research Products business, including the Cumberland facility, in June 2019.
According to a statement that a company spokesperson provided to The Associated Press earlier in the year, the company has made improvements to the site, including reducing dog numbers, raising staff pay, and improving cleaning processes.
In March, Mark Warner and Tim Kaie, U.S. senators from Virginia, demanded that federal inspectors remove Envigo’s license. A month earlier, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria and six others wrote to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service raising similar concerns about Envigo’s license not being suspended.
PETA, the Norfolk-based animal rights group, conducted a months-long undercover investigation into the facility in 2021 and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October of that year, prompting inspections, senior vice president Daphna Nachminovitch said Friday.
PETA alleged workers injected euthanasia drugs directly into puppies’ hearts without sedation–causing them “immense pain. “
“Workers, who were not veterinarians or veterinary technicians, cut prolapsed tissue from puppies’ eyes, stitched the prolapsed penises of dogs, and even removed puppies from sedated mothers’ stomachs before putting them down,” PETA claimed last year in its investigation. The group has been raising alarm about the facility for several months.
Nachminovitch credited federal officials for “finally” taking “decisive action. “
“PETA finds suffering like this every time we crack open an operation like Envigo, and this needs to be the beginning of the end for this hideous beagle-breeding mill,” Nachminovitch said in a statement.
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