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Virginia lawmakers pass new regulations for controversial beagle breeding facility

Beagles enclosed in kennels at a breeding facility owned by Envigo in Cumberland, Virginia....
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)
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 9:05 AM EST
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After a series of federal animal welfare violations — including more than 300 puppy deaths attributed to “unknown causes” — Virginia lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impose new regulations on a controversial beagle breeding facility in Cumberland.

Tuesday’s vote marked a victory for animal welfare advocates, who have spent years attempting to bring the breeding center under state oversight. Owned by Envigo, a global biotechnology company, the facility breeds thousands of dogs every year, supplying hospitals, universities, and federal partners with a steady stream of dogs for medical and veterinary experimentation.

The facility first attracted statewide attention in 2017, when inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture recorded several violations during a routine inspection of the facility. The same year, an animal rights group published drone footage that showed hundreds of beagles packed into pens and barking frantically.

But legislative efforts to expand state oversight stalled in 2020 and weren’t renewed until this year’s session after the facility was cited for more than two dozen animal safety violations. In July and October, federal inspectors recorded critical deficiencies including accumulation of feces, urine, and insects below kennel floors, infestations of flies and ants in dog feeders and another 71 beagles that were injured after dogs in adjoining kennels were able to bite their ears or tails through the wall.

In the second report, officials found that more than a dozen female dogs were deprived of food for nearly two days while nursing their puppies — part of the facility’s “standard operating procedure” for weaning. The inspection also uncovered more than a dozen dogs with health problems including severe dental disease, skin lesions, and eye infections, along with hundreds of puppies and adult dogs housed in kennels where the temperature exceeded 90 degrees for hours.

The inspections coincided with an undercover investigation conducted by the Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has accused Envigo of animal cruelty. From April to November, a PETA employee worked as an animal care technician at the facility, ultimately reporting that dogs were routinely euthanized with no sedation and that cages were power-sprayed with beagles still housed inside them in an affidavit to federal regulators.

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The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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