RICHMOND, VA ( Associated Press) — Federal officials have charged a company that runs a Virginia facility breeding dogs for research of violating animal welfare law and at least 145 Beagles “acutely,” according to a recently filed lawsuit. crisis” were found. ,
The Envigo RMS facility in Cumberland County has been under scrutiny for months, drawing concerns from animal rights groups, members of Congress and Virginia lawmakers, who this year passed animal welfare measures aimed at strengthening the facility’s requirements. and strengthen state surveillance.
Repeated federal oversight since Envigo acquired the facility in 2019 has resulted in dozens of violations, including findings that the dogs had received inadequate medical care and insufficient food, were kept in filthy conditions, and some were previously under anesthesia. Euthanasia was performed without obtaining it. According to the inspection, hundreds of dogs have also been found dead at the facility.
“Despite being on notice since July 2021 that its Cumberland facility is well below (Animal Welfare Act) minimum standards, Envigo has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that humane care is provided to all Beagles in its facility. and is acting in compliance with the Treatment and Cumberland Facility (ACT),” said the complaint filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Court records do not list an attorney for Envigo. A spokesperson said the company is working on a statement and will have a response at some point on Friday.
According to the complaint, agents from the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and other law enforcement officers began executing a federal search warrant at the facility on Wednesday. The lawsuit says that by the time the complaint was filed on Thursday, veterinarians for 145 dogs and puppies were found to be in serious trouble.
The government is requesting that a judge declare that Envigo has repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act and restrains the company from further violations.
“Envigo is failing to meet minimum standards for handling and housing the Beagle, resulting in unnecessary suffering and, at times, the death of the Beagle at the Cumberland facility,” the complaint said.
According to the complaint, up to 5,000 Beagles have been housed in the facility since July 2021. It is alleged that the staffing is “slight” and that the attending veterinarian has failed to provide and supervise adequate care.
“Instead of spending money to meet minimum standards … Envigo employs a small number of employees and has chosen to euthanize the Beagle or allow the Beagle to die from malnutrition, treatable and preventable conditions.” is permitted, and injuries resulting from keeping Beagles in overcrowded and unsanitary enclosures or enclosures are incompatible animals,” the complaint states.
It cites a finding from a July 2021 inspection report that found Envigo euthanized dozens of Beagles over the course of months, rather than taking care of injuries, when a body part such as the ears or tail was pushed against the kennel wall by the dog. was drawn through. ,
As for the dogs found dead, the complaint alleges that animal care technicians with no formal training are allowed to decide whether autopsies should be performed.
Medical records reviewed during a July 2021 inspection indicate that for 173 puppies, Envigo staff could not identify the cause of death because the carcasses had already begun to decompose.
The complaint said inspectors found unsanitary conditions including a “widespread, widespread pest problem,” overcrowded enclosures and a build-up of feces, urine 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 in June 2019, which also includes the Cumberland facility.
According to a statement given to the Associated Press earlier this year, the company worked to improve the site, including reducing the total number of dogs at the site, raising wages, increasing staff training, and enhancing cleaning procedures. has done.
In March, US senators from Virginia, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, called on federal inspectors to strip the facility of its licenses. And a month ago, US Representative Ellen Luria and six other representatives wrote to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, raising similar concerns about why Envigo’s license had not been suspended.
PETA, the Norfolk-based animal rights group, conducted a month-long undercover investigation into the facility in 2021 and filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture in October of that year, prompting the inspection, senior vice president Daphna Nachminovich said Friday. . The group has been sounding the alarm about the facility for months.
Nachminovich credits federal officials with “finally” taking “decisive action.”
“PETA feels such anguish every time we open an operation like Envigo, and this must be the beginning of the end for this terrible beagle-breeding mill,” Nachminovich said in a statement.