Safe and Sound: Beagles recover, one year after Envigo rescue

Published 10:08 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

The Humane Society of the United States is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the rescue of 4,000 beagles from the Envigo facility in Cumberland.

Envigo is an Indiana based company with a facility located in Cumberland County that bred and sold animals for scientific research. The facility closed after being cited for 74 violations of the Animal Welfare Act by the United States Department of Agriculture, including inadequate veterinary care and insufficient food. Now these dogs have been placed with over 100 shelters and rescue organizations in 29 states to find a loving home. 

“These dogs have spent the last year learning how to walk on leashes, finding the most comfortable spot on the couch and becoming treasured family members in their loving homes,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Dogs used in laboratories typically live short, painful lives. It’s heartbreaking to think about what would have happened to these beagles if Envigo had been able to sell them to laboratories. Animal experimentation is undeniably cruel while non-animal models, such as organs-on-chips, computer modeling and human cell-based tests, are better for the animals and for humans. We were able to save these lucky few beagles, but more are being bred and sold to laboratories every day — it’s on all of us to make this change.”

Some background on Envigo case

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The whole thing started in July 2021 when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Envigo on 26 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, with 12 labeled critical. Then in October of that year, the USDA found 13 violations. 

During this time, 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 teamed up with other organizations, including animal shelters and humane societies, to create the Virginia Coalition for Beagle Protection. This collaboration focused on seeing the House and Senate bills that the Virginia General Assembly passed make it to the governor’s desk. 

Fortunately for the dogs and their owners, these efforts were not in vain. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon filed a consent decree on July 15 that permanently barred Envigo from any activity requiring a federal Animal Welfare Act license. He ruled for Envigo to shut down and for the dogs at the Cumberland facility to be put up for adoption. 

After the ruling, the Humane Society of the United States worked alongside its partners to rehome the thousands of dogs that used to call the facility home in under 60 days. On scheduled days, the Humane Society and its partners retrieved 300 to 600 beagles at a time to go to an adoption facility or go back with them to Maryland. Because of their efforts, the dogs have been relocated to 120 different shelters in 29 different states. One of these lucky beagles was adopted by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

‘This isn’t only a feel-good story’

“This isn’t only a feel-good story about rescued dogs — the beagles from Envigo represent the countless victims of the cruelty and pointlessness of all experiments on animals,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “Every animal supplier and laboratory needs to be shut down, and (National Institutes of Health) can start by dumping failed animal tests and funding scientifically superior, human-relevant studies.”

Even though this is a great occasion to celebrate, the Humane Society of the United States is still working no other company steps in to simply replace those dogs. The organization reports that nearly 60,000 dogs on average are used in experiments each year across the country and tens of thousands more are held in laboratory breeding facilities.

Currently,  the Humane Society of the United States is working with funding from Congress to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration accelerate the development of non-animal methods and reduce or eliminate animal testing.