FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Roughly 400 of 4,000 beagles ordered to be released from the Envigo dog breeding facility in Cumberland County arrived in northern Virginia on Thursday following a decision from a federal judge in Lynchburg.
The move signals the beginning of the end of a years-long saga over animal welfare concerns from PETA and federal investigators at the facility, where dogs were bred for scientific purposes.
The first round of dogs to be rescued following a string of federal court decisions for the facility to come into compliance; years of coverage by WFXR’s sister station, WRIC; and an announcement from the facility’s parent company Inotiv that they would close.
“Hi! Are you so excited?” said someone overheard at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue on Thursday, July 21, where the beagles were brought out of pens and cages. At that moment, the dogs touched grass for the first time.
“They have lived their whole lives in a facility surrounded by other dogs,” said Rebecca Goodhart, a deputy director of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.
The senior vice president of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department, Daphna Nachminovitch, praised the judge’s decision to side with the Department of Justice, after the department sued over failed inspections by the USDA, saying, “We are thrilled that they are getting the opportunity to have a life.”
PETA’s undercover sting that showed the mistreatment of beagles inside the Envigo facility, plus WRIC’s many investigations, preceded the judge’s order, which also prevented Inotiv from getting a license to operate in Cumberland County again.
Inspections found dogs malnourished, sick, injured and kept in excessive heat.
The conditions at Envigo’s facility prompted responses from several legislators and inspired “Beagle Bills” intended to protect animals in breeding facilities, five of which were signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in April.
In the Envigo agreement with the United States Department of Justice and USDA, the company said they “will not engage in any activity that requires a USDA license at the site.” Meanwhile, Inotiv maintained that their “top priority continues to be ensuring proper animal welfare” at their facilities.
“No animals should be subjected to the conditions that these surviving dogs were subjected to,” Nachminovitch said.
It will take around 60 days for the remaining 3,600 dogs at Envigo to end up with the Humane Society of the United States, according to Envigo’s agreement to relinquish the dogs.
“They’re going to be able to experience lots of new things like wearing leashes and learning how to walk on them, and playing with toys and things that they have just not had exposure to in their lives before,” Goodhart said.
Nachminovitch added that once the Human Society of the United States rescues the beagles, they will end up in Virginia homes and likely in other states.