RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens of animal welfare violations and persistent reports of deplorable conditions inside a Virginia dog breeding facility have finally prompted state lawmakers to step in. They’ve now filed 11 bipartisan bills aimed at addressing concerns at Envigo.
WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, has been exposing poor and harmful conditions inside the breeding and research facility, which houses more than 5,000 dogs to be used in medical research, for several years. Envigo is a global company valued at more than $500 million.
On Wednesday, Jan. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a scathing inspection report from a visit in October 2021. The Cumberland facility was cited for 13 animal welfare violations. That’s in addition to 26 violations documented in October 2021.
That inspection was prompted by an undercover PETA video and a prior USDA inspection that found “300 puppy deaths attributed to unknown causes.”
The October federal inspection report was released this week. It stated that sick and injured dogs were left untreated, a newborn puppy was found dead in the drains and there were continued problems with dirty kennels.
“It’s barbaric and hideous,” said Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax).
She and Del. Buddy Fowler (R-Caroline) are sponsoring Greta’s Law, named after Fowlers’ beagle who often comes to work with him.
“The violations, I mean, are just absolutely horrific,” Fowler said.
The bill would require Envigo to track dogs born, sold or found dead at its facility.
The report noted “a pile of feces” said to be stacked “5 to 6 inches high.”
According to Fowler, “They don’t deserve to live like this.”
Fowler, a beagle breeder himself, shook his head, saying, “I have to keep my kennels clean.”
“It’s just totally unacceptable,” he added.
The 11 bills range in scope from increasing accountability and transparency to implementing statewide oversight.
“We should all be ashamed and embarrassed that this is going on near where we live,” said Kory, who is happy to see so many fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle taking action.
Among the other bills is Senate Bill 535, which creates an animal welfare oversight officer to inspect operations at Envigo. Senate Bill 604 would close a loophole that allows Envigo to escape state animal cruelty charges.
“These are violations for which I would be charged with a felony,” explained Daphna Nachminovitch with PETA.
Nachminovitch helped launch the newly formed Virginia Coalition for Beagle Protection. The coalition is made up of dozens of animal rescue groups and humane societies. They have been contacting lawmakers and throwing their full support behind the bills.
“These bills could make the difference of life or death for these long suffering beagles,” said Nachminovitch.
Envigo said in a statement, “Envigo is following the Virginia legislative process and will be providing relevant testimony during the committee discussions. We are proud of the investments and improvements we have made at the Cumberland facility and continue to work with policymakers to ensure the critical need for human and animal medical research is met in a safe and humane way.”
Some of the bills will be heard in subcommittees next week. In the meantime, Nachminovitch wonders why the USDA hasn’t done more and seized the animals they found hurt or pulled Envigo’s breeder license. Several groups have called on the USDA to revoke Envigo’s license.