Federal officials have accused a company that runs a Virginia facility breeding dogs for research of violating animal welfare law and recently seized at least 145 beagles found to be in “acute distress,” according to a lawsuit filed Thursday. The Envigo RMS facility is located in Cumberland County. It has come under increased scrutiny over the past months. This raised concerns from animal rights advocates, lawmakers and members of Congress.
Repeated federal inspections since Envigo acquired the facility in 2019 have resulted in dozens of violations, including findings that dogs had received inadequate medical care and insufficient food, were housed in filthy conditions, and some had been euthanized without first receiving anesthesia. According to inspections, hundreds of dead dogs were also found at the facility.
“Despite being on notice since July 2021 that the conditions at its Cumberland facility fall far below the (Animal Welfare Act’s) minimum standards, Envigo has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that all of the beagles at its facility are provided humane care and treatment and that the Cumberland facility is operating in compliance with the (act),” said the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Court records don’t list Envigo as an attorney. According to a spokesperson, the company is currently working on a statement. They will respond at some time Friday.
According to the complaint agents from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General along with other law enforcement officers started executing a federal warrant at the facility Wednesday. As of Thursday’s filing of the complaint, 145 dogs and puppies veterinarians found to be in acute distress had been seized, the lawsuit said.
The government is requesting that a judge declare Envigo has repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act and restrain the company from further violations.
“Envigo has failed to adhere to the minimal standards of handling and housing beagles. This is causing unnecessary suffering, and sometimes death, at the Cumberland Facility.” the complaint stated.
According to the complaint, the facility has housed up to 5,000 beagles since July 2021. According to the complaint, staffing was “paltry”, and there has not been adequate supervision of the beagles.
” Envigo did not spend enough money to ensure that the minimum standards were met. Instead, Envigo employed very few employees and decided to kill beagles.
It cites a finding from a July 2021 inspection report that found Envigo had euthanized dozens of beagles over the course of months rather than provide care for injuries caused when a body part like an ear or tail was pulled through a kennel wall by a dog next door. The complaint claims that animal care technicians without formal training can make decisions about necropsy.
Medical records reviewed during the July 2021 inspection indicated that for 173 puppies, Envigo staff could not identify a cause of death because the bodies had already begun decomposing. The complaint stated that inspectors found unsanitary conditions including a “extensive and widespread pest problem”, overcrowded enclosures, and accumulations of urine, feces 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, including the Cumberland facility, in June 2019.
According to a statement that a company spokesperson provided to The Associated Press in early this year, the company worked hard to improve the site. This included reducing the number of dogs present, raising staff pay and improving cleaning procedures.
In March, Mark Warner (Va.) and Tim Kaine (Virginia) called on federal inspectors for the deactivation of Envigo’s license. A month prior, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria and six others wrote to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service raising similar concerns regarding why Envigo had not received a license suspension.
PETA, the Norfolk-based animal rights group, conducted a months-long undercover investigation into the facility in 2021 and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October of that year, prompting inspections, senior vice president Daphna Nachminovitch said Friday.
PETA alleged workers injected euthanasia drugs directly into puppies’ hearts without sedation–causing them “immense pain. “
“Workers, who weren’t veterinarians or veterinary technicians, allegedly cut prolapsed tissue from puppies’ eyes and stitched the prolapsed penises of dogs. They also reportedly took puppies out of mothers’ stomachs to put them down. PETA’s investigation into this matter last year revealed that they were not even vets. The group has raised concerns about the facility since months.
Nachminovitch credited federal officials for “finally” taking “decisive action. “
“PETA finds suffering like this every time we crack open an operation like Envigo, and this needs to be the beginning of the end for this hideous beagle-breeding mill,” Nachminovitch said in a statement.