Fate of dogs debate continues

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

After being allowed to sell a portion of its remaining dogs, Envigo now seeks to sell more than 2,200 dogs of the remaining 3,200 at its facility.

On June 24, a motion of clarification was filed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia regarding how many dogs Envigo planned to sell after Senior U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon authorized the facility to sell more than 500 dogs to fulfill standing contractual obligations.

Envigo, an Indiana based company with a facility located in Cumberland County, breeds and sells animals for scientific research. In 2021, the facility was cited for 74 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by the United States Department of Agriculture that were also found by undercover members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Due to the violations, Envigo’s operations were suspended in May 2022 until they were fixed. On June 13, the parent company Inotiv announced it would instead close the facility.

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Since the announcement of its closing, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Envigo have worked to determine what to do with the remaining 3,200 dogs after around 840 have been rescued. On June 17, Moon authorized that Envigo could sell the more than 500 dogs that were under contract before the May 2021 suspension. Envigo is trying to raise that number from 500 to 2,200.

This ruling faced opposition from 29 Virginia legislators. A bipartisan letter was sent on June 21 to Kevin Shea, administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, asking the agency to immediately suspend Envigo’s license, prohibiting them from selling any of the dogs.

“As repeatedly documented by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and other federal agents, thousands of beagle dogs and puppies at Envigo have been subjected to unlawful and inhumane conditions since at least July 2021,” the state lawmakers said in their letter. “Despite not having been compliant with the basic and minimal requirements of the AWA for almost a year now, Envigo has asked that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia allow it to continue engaging in regulated activity and sell these animals in commerce. We urge the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to exercise its authority to suspend the applicable Envigo licenses for 21 days and expedite enforcement actions to prevent this illegally operated facility from conducting any further regulated activity.”

This letter was signed by Sen. William Stanley Jr., R-District 20, Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-District 33, Del. Robert Bell, R-District 58, Del. Dawn Adams, D-District 68, and many others. The letter can be found at tinyurl.com/EnvigoLetter.

Envigo’s plan to sell the 2,200 dogs would send them to facilities across the country and to labs overseas until July 2023. This is in contrast to Moon’s authorization of selling more than 500 dogs in 30 days. On June 26, the DOJ filed a motion in response to authenticate these purchase orders.

According to the motion, the DOJ received about 95 purported contracts to authenticate to approve the fulfilling of these orders.

These concerns from the DOJ come in light of Envigo’s deadline on June 24 to submit an adoption plan for the 3,200 remaining dogs at the facility, including the more than 500 they are permitted to sell. The DOJ has asked Moon to clarify his June 17 ruling to get a better understanding of how many dogs are allowed to be sold in the “more than 500.”

According to Dan Paden, PETA vice president of evidence analysis, there is no timeline for Moon to consider and rule on the DOJ findings.