beagle
beagle

Research Beagle Facility Ordered to Clean Up, Halt Breeding

A federal judge ruled that Envigo can finalize the sales for 500 of its remaining 3,000 research dogs, but it needs to improve the safety and health of the animals remaining at its facilities while federal officials decide their fate.

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Andy Carstens

Andy Carstens is an intern at The Scientist. He has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master's in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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Jun 20, 2022

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The US District Court in West Virginia issued a preliminary injunction on Friday (June 17) allowing Envigo to fulfill existing contracts to sell some of the beagles reared in its Cumberland, Virginia facility  but prohibiting it from breeding new puppies, reports the Associated Press. Envigo wants to sell all of the dogs, according to Science, while the US Department of Justice (DOJ) argues it should only be allowed to give them away until the facility fully complies with Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requirements, which it currently doesn’t.

“To be clear, Defendant is not being given a free pass,” Judge Norman K. Moon wrote in the order, adding that “punitive consequences, including financial consequences, may follow from this litigation after a final judgment on the merits.”

After the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported more than 70 Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations at Envigo’s beagle breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, the state passed legislation in April prohibiting the company from selling more dogs if it incurred even a single AWA violation after July 1, 2023, reports Science. Last month, the DOJ sued Envigo for its AWA violations and seized almost 450 animals deemed to be suffering from acute distress.

Amy Katherine Taylor, a Virginia State animal crime inspector, provided written testimony stating that a June 8 inspection of the facility revealed dogs packed in overly-hot cages, some standing in their own feces and urine, some without water bowls, and others with insect-infested food, according to Science.

While the injunction allows Envigo to sell 500 of the approximately 3,000 beagles still at the facility in order to fulfill existing contracts, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that it also requires improvements to the safety and health of the dogs. Specifically, the order requires Envigo to immediately cease breeding and euthanizing beagles, give them sanitary water and food, and improve their storage enclosures by providing the code-required minimum floor space and by keeping them clean, dry and free of excessive rust, jagged edges, and sharp points.  

Envigo and federal officials have until 5 PM on Wednesday, June 22 to inform the judge of their plan to remove the remaining beagles from the facility, reports the Times Dispatch. If the two sides can’t come to a compromise regarding selling or giving the remainder of the dogs away, Science reports that a full trial may be required to decide the animals’ futures.

The current order falls on the heels of Envigo’s parent company, Inotiv, announcing last week that it would close the Cumberland facility by December of this year.

“Closing only this abhorrent facility is not enough,” Eric Kleiman, a researcher with the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute, tells Science. “What of the over 40,000 animals at its other sites? Given its shocking animal welfare record, we believe that Inotiv’s license should be permanently revoked.”