Action sought for Envigo facility

Published 2:15 pm Saturday, March 5, 2022

The Envigo dog breeding facility faces backlash after reports of inhumane treatment of the beagles at its Cumberland facility.

The Indiana-based company had an estimated 5,000 dogs and puppies at its Cumberland facility. It had 500 puppies produced each month that were sold across the country and around the world for laboratory testing. In July 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Envigo on 26 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Out of the 26, 12 were critical, meaning it had severe effects on the animal’s well-being. During a check-up in October 2021, the USDA found another 13 violations with 11 repeating and seven critical.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also went undercover in the facility and witnessed the same violations as the USDA. As a result, PETA has teamed up with other organizations, including animal shelters and humane societies, to create the Virginia Coalition for Beagle Protection. This collaboration is focused on seeing the house and senate bills that the Virginia General Assembly passed make it to the governor’s desk.

“We want people to get involved,” said ​​Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department. “Legislators can only do so much, but it makes an absolute difference when they hear from constituents.”

Virginia lawmakers initially made 11 bills to hold facilities like Envigo accountable. Five are moving on and are hoped to make their journey to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk to be enacted in July 2022.

These bills address the issues at Envigo and set guidelines to prevent actions like these from continuing or happening. These bills include Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 1350 that prohibit dealers from selling animals for experimentation if the dealers have violated federal regulations, Senate Bill 88 which requires that records are kept of the animals sold or transferred, Senate Bill 90 which requires animals no longer needed be put up for adoption instead of euthanizing them and Senate Bill 604 that redefines the term companion animal.

“Following the awful revelation in 2021 that a Virginia company, Envigo, was mistreating the very beagles that it was breeding for sale for use in scientific experiments, both myself and Sen. Jennifer Boysko wrote legislation that will protect “man’s best friend” that not only requires companies like Envigo to treat these beagles humanely at all times, but also will hold them accountable, both criminally and civilly, if they do not,” said Senator Bill Stanely.

Stanley is currently working with Envigo and other rescue groups, including Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, to find the 480 beagles a loving home. Stanley admits that he has already adopted two and is happy to help anyone interested in adopting one of the dogs.

Also looking into this issue was White Coat Waste Project, a taxpayer watch group. They requested documents through the Freedom of Information Act to check what was happening. They found dogs were being sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for “brutal experimentation.” The NIH has now gone on record saying they have no future purchases planned from Envigo.

According to the FOIA documents White Coat Waste Project posted on its website, the NIH has purchased around 60 dogs over the past few years for septic shock experiments, which if the dog happened to survive was then euthanized.

“We want to make sure that taxpayers are not providing financial support for something the majority of Americans oppose,” said Justin Goodman, senior Vice president at the White Coat Waste Project.

Those who want to stay up to date during this process can follow the Virginia Coalition for Beagle Protection Facebook page as it tracks the progress of the multiple bills. To view the FOIA documents, visit blog.whitecoatwaste.org.