The Bulletin

More violations found at beagle breeding facility in Cumberland

By: - April 1, 2022 4:00 pm

Beagles enclosed in kennels at a breeding facility owned by Envigo in Cumberland, Virginia. Federal regulators and animal welfare groups have uncovered critical violations within the facility, including hundreds of puppy deaths with no causes listed. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

A recent federal inspection report found new violations at a controversial Cumberland beagle breeding facility that’s become the subject of scrutiny among state and federal lawmakers.

A March 8 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found five additional violations at the breeding center, owned by Envigo, a global biotechnology company. All were repeat violations, including continued failure to provide adequate veterinary care and unsafe conditions that caused dogs to become stuck in the facility’s flooring and injured by unsafe enclosures. Workers routinely failed to consider the compatibility of dogs bred at the facility or break up fights, which led to serious injuries. 

Between November and early March, records showed at least 59 dogs that were wounded in fights, according to the report. Inspectors also found that feeders weren’t being adequately clean, leading to damp and moldy food.

“The facility’s total USDA violations is now 70 since July 2021 and records show eight dogs were euthanized after a fight,” Tasgola Bruner, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA has spent years advocating for reforms at the breeding center along with other animal welfare activists, including the group SHARK, which first drew attention to the facility in 2017 through drone footage showing hundreds of beagles packed into pens and barking frantically. 

The March report is only the latest series of violations for Envigo, which also received 26 additional citations in a November inspection report that documented painful euthanizations of dogs, 25 additional puppies that died from exposure and other dogs that died due to insufficient medical care. The company’s repeated failure to follow basic animal welfare requirements led Virginia lawmakers to overwhelmingly approve new regulations for the facility earlier this year.

The bills are still awaiting signature from Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and legislation that would ban Envigo from selling animals if the company was cited for additional violations won’t go into effect until July 2023, largely thanks to its lobbying efforts.

During the 2022 session, representatives for the company pledged to make improvements at the facility. But repeated violations over the course of nearly a year have led some federal lawmakers to call for immediate action. In a Thursday letter, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine called on the USDA to suspend the breeding center’s license and launch formal administrative proceedings through the agency’s Office of General Counsel.

“In recent months, we have been horrified to learn of the abuses at Envigo’s facilities in Virginia,” they wrote. Both Warner and Kaine said they were also concerned by the agency’s repeated delays in making inspection reports publicly available.

“Advocates, legislators, and the public have waited months after inspections to review inspection report findings,” they wrote.

“It strikes us as unacceptable that the public and elected officials were not privy to the horrific violations of the [Animal Welfare Act]  until months after the inspections while animals suffered in the interim,” the letter added.

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Kate Masters
Kate Masters

Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md. She was named Virginia's outstanding young journalist for 2021 by the Virginia Press Association.