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Beagle breeding facility will pay record fine

The breeding company pleaded guilty to keeping dogs in crowded, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.
U.S, Attorney, Western District of Virginia
The breeding company pleaded guilty to keeping dogs in crowded, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.

When officials raided the Envigo facility in 2022, U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh says they found dogs being kept in filthy, overcrowded conditions, given contaminated food and water or starved.

"We found that Envigo failed to provide adequate veterinary care, and leadership within the company knew about it. Envigo employees failed to follow proper euthanasia procedures resulting in the unnecessary pain and suffering of several dogs. At times they failed confirm and verify that as euthanized dog was actually deceased before disposing of it," he said.

Kavanaugh charged the place had too few employees – about one person for every 128 dogs. On Monday, the firm and its parent company – Inotiv -- pleaded guilty to violating the Animal Welfare Act and admitted dumping polluted water into a local creek. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Kim told reporters.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Kim (L)
Sandy Hausman
U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Kim (L)

"The company possessed a permit to discharge treated effluent into the creek, but beginning no later than January of 2020, the treatment system was in trouble, and the facility needed capital improvements to properly handle the waste. Envigo unlawfully enriched itself by failing to spend the necessary money for upgrades, and by failing to hire enough trained and competent staff."

Envigo and Inotiv will pay more than $35 million -- $11 million each for violation of animal welfare and environmental laws – and other charges described by Daphna Nachminovich at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"They must commit $7 million to animal care improvements at Inotiv facilities, $3 million in reimbursements for the cost of the seizure and care of the surviving beagles from the Cumberland facility and $3.5 million to restore nearby ecosystems, because they did so much damage to the waterways," she says.

These are fines the company can likely afford. Here, again, is U.S. Attorney Kavanaugh.

"From 2019, leading up to our search warrant in May of 2022, Envigo sold just shy of about 15,000 beagles, generating $16 million in revenue give or take."

Inotiv must also hire an expert to monitor operations at about 20 other facilities in North America and Europe selling to the international market for laboratory animals – a concern for PETA which tipped the federal government to problems at Envigo after a seven-month undercover investigation.

"Inotiv, remains a major supplier of endangered long-tailed Macaques monkeys to U.S. laboratories -- a supplier of animals of all shapes and sizes internationally.”

Nachminovich says PETA will continue its fight against the use of animals for research, claiming advances in computer science make their use unnecessary.

"The FDA modernization Act for the first time decades allows pharmaceutical companies to not experiment on animals but to use new technology, organs on a chip, computer modeling and other advanced science-based methods that are more reliable and of course humane to bring products to market without experimenting on animals."

Inotiv has pledged to abide by animal welfare and environmental laws in future, and the Justice Department says it reserves the right to bring charges against any individuals involved with this case if necessary.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief