CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. — A Cumberland County research and dog breeding facility is on track to shut down.
In a hearing Monday, Envigo, which breeds and tests beagles for pharmaceutical research purposes, came to an agreement with the Department of Justice to remove the dogs and shut down operations.
The facility was previously ordered a temporary restraint due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Per investigations by the USDA and reporting by watchdog groups, Envigo has violated the federal Animal Welfare Act more than 70 times.
“Envigo really is the worst actor right now in the United States and it is the worst actor in many years in terms of routinely persistently, pervasively violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, which establishes basic bare minimum standards for caring for dogs, cats and other animals,” said Dan Paden, the Vice President of Evidence Analysis with PETA.
Photos and videos obtained by SAEN through Freedom of Information Act requests show dogs with tooth decay and eye injuries, as well as insects in food.
An inspection report from the USDA on May 3 said a total of two dogs were “found actively stuck in the flooring to the point that the facility representatives had to remove one of them from the flooring.” The report also indicated that the flooring “has been identified on previous inspections to be dangerous because dogs have been found by inspectors with feet/toes stuck in the flooring.”
“They have been given opportunity after opportunity to do right by these animals and they continue to fail up and down,” Paden said.
Earlier this year, more than 446 dogs were found to be in “acute distress,” and were seized from the facility. Now, more than 3,000 dogs will need to be removed. How that will happen, however, is unclear.
During the hearing, representatives of the DOJ pushed for the dogs to be adopted swiftly, rather than be transferred or sold for further research purposes, saying Envigo should not be able to profit from their transfer, due to their former violations.
“We would agree with the US attorney that while Envigo is breaking the law, they should not be allowed to profit from the sale of dogs,” said Michael Budkie, co-founder of watchdog group SAEN.
Envigo representatives argued it should be able to continue its business operations while clearing out the facility. Judge Norman K. Moon ended the hearing requesting that Envigo and the DOJ come to a conclusion on how to safely remove the animals from the facility.
Both Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have expressed concerns over this case.
“More than 3,000 dogs are still under Envigo’s custody – a particularly alarming fact since Envigo has demonstrated over time that it has not provided safe and humane conditions for the dogs in its care. I am grateful that the DOJ continues to work to prevent further abuses of the Animal Welfare Act. I’ll continue to follow this case closely and do everything in my power to ensure these animals find a loving home,” Warner said in a statement to CBS6.
“Today’s hearing was about the Department of Justice seeking to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction. I hope that the Western District will continue prioritizing the health and safety of the dogs at Envigo, and I will continue to closely monitor this case,” Kaine said in a statement to CBS6.