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Envigo agrees to inspections

Lawmakers rejected an amendment offered by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to put more regulations on the state’s largest dog breeding facility located in Cumberland County Wednesday, April 22. However, Envigo, the owner of the research facility, has agreed to undergo additional inspections.

The sponsor of the amended bill, Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax County, said his legislation was originally intended to further regulate Virginia pet stores that sell dogs and cats. His bill, SB 891, aims to establish a set of standards for the industry conducted by the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Marsden said he did not have the Cumberland Envigo research facility on his mind when creating the legislation, but the organization was inadvertently drawn into the bill. The document was modified to no longer include the Cumberland facility due to its medical research purposes until the governor offered an amendment to draw the organization back in.

The amendment, Marsden said, was flawed in that it would have unintentionally put the dog breeding facility out of business due to language that would have defined the business as a commercial breeder, making the facility illegal.

Although Marsden’s bill was passed, Northam’s amendment failed.

Despite this, Marsden said he reached out to Envigo representatives, who agreed to undergo inspections by the state veterinarian within the year. Inspections for the pet stores addressed in SB 891 won’t begin until Nov. 2022.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax County) offered legislation this year, SB 669, which would have outlawed research and breeding facilities like Envigo. Her legislation was continued to 2021.

Boysko said she was originally inspired to create the bill after viewing drone footage captured of the Cumberland research facility.

Boysko said at the time of its last federal inspection in August of 2019 the facility was warehousing 2,237 adult dogs, 2,558 puppies and 58 cats.

“Video footage taken at the facility by federal inspectors reveals that sick and injured dogs were denied adequate veterinary care, dogs were held in rusty, broken enclosures with several inches of moldy fecal buildup under the flooring, and food given to the dogs was contaminated with living and dead insects, mold, rodent feces and other contaminants,” she said.

Boysko believes Marsden’s bill would not have put the Cumberland facility out of business, as language in the bill allows local officials to approve facilities that maintain more than 50 dogs per year for breeding purposes. The research facility, previously operating as Covance Research Products, was listed as Cumberland’s second-largest private employer in the county’s 2013-2018 Comprehensive Plan.

SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), a national animal rights organization, shot the drone footage in June 2019 which garnered hundreds of thousands of views online.

SHARK representative Stuart Chaifetz described the conditions at the facility shown in the original drone footage as “horrendous.” He said the organization returned to shoot more drone footage in March of this year and found more of the same.

Chaifetz emphasized SHARK’s belief that any inspections done at the facility, even if done voluntarily, need to be random.

“Any type of inspection has to be a surprise inspection,” he said.

Chaifetz added that SHARK is in the midst of creating a new website, beaglesalvation.com, that will focus primarily on concerns surrounding large breeding facilities like the one in Cumberland.

Envigo confirmed Monday, April 27, it has agreed to be inspected by the state veterinarian, adding that the facility is “already subject to local, state and federal laws that ensure oversight of animal welfare.”

“The dogs bred at the Cumberland facility are used for a broad range of research activities at universities, government facilities and other research institutes,” Envigo spokesperson Michael Garrett said. “The research conducted at these facilities is also subject to federal, state and local regulation and oversight.”

Garret said the Cumberland facility’s 2019 inspection report states that ‘no non-compliant items were identified.’

“The site also had a similarly positive inspection report from the same government agency in 2018,” he said.

He added the Cumberland facility has also been inspected and accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International.