The Bulletin

Feds seize 145 dogs and puppies from Cumberland beagle breeding facility

By: and - May 20, 2022 11:37 am

Both PETA and federal inspectors found that lactating beagles were deprived of food in an effort to stop milk production and wean puppies. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

Federal agents have seized 145 dogs and puppies found to be “in acute distress” from a controversial Cumberland County beagle breeding facility operated by global biotechnology company Envigo. 

“Envigo has employed a paltry number of employees and elected to euthanize beagles or allowed beagles to die from malnutrition, treatable and preventable conditions, and injuries resulting from beagles being housed in overcrowded and unsanitary enclosures or enclosures that contain incompatible animals,” the U.S. government alleges in a civil complaint filed May 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Lynchburg

The complaint states the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General and other law enforcement agencies began seizing the dogs pursuant to a May 18 search warrant. 

An earlier inspection by the Agriculture Department uncovered more than 300 puppy deaths attributed to “unknown causes” over a six-month period in 2021. This March, inspectors discovered more violations at the facility, which houses up to 5,000 dogs. 

Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has been advocating for reforms to the Cumberland facility, praised federal officials for the seizure and said “this needs to be the beginning of the end for this hideous beagle-breeding mill.” 

The federal government is asking the court to find that Envigo is violating the federal Animal Welfare Act and “preliminarily and permanently enjoin” it from doing so. 

During the past General Assembly session, the Envigo facility also inspired a package of new state laws collectively known as “the beagle bills.” A pack of dogs joined Gov. Glenn Youngkin in early April for a signing ceremony at the Executive Mansion.

The bipartisan bills — some of which would only apply to violations that occur after July 1, 2023 — toughen animal cruelty laws to impose new restrictions on breeders and dealers selling dogs and cats for experimental purposes and require breeders who sell dogs and cats to animal testing facilities to put unwanted animals up for adoption before euthanizing them.

This historic package of bills I signed today clarifies that dogs and cats bred and sold for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia’s cruelty-to-animals law, will help ensure welfare standards and save lives, and will give Virginia the authority to take action when welfare violations occur,” Youngkin said in news release at the time.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is the Mercury's environment and energy reporter, covering everything from utility regulation to sea level rise. Originally from McLean, she has spent over a decade in journalism and academic publishing and previously worked as a staff reporter for Chesapeake Bay Journal, the Progress-Index and the Caroline Progress. She is the recipient of a first place award for explanatory reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and has twice been honored by the Virginia Press Association as "Best in Show" for online writing. She was chosen for the 2020 cohort of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]

Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]