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Loophole in Northam amendment prevents regulation of state’s largest dog breeding facility

A loophole in state law that exempts Virginia’s largest dog-breeding facility from state oversight will last another year after lawmakers rejected a flawed amendment meant to end the exemption .

Governor Ralph Northam proposed the amendment that would have extended state inspections and regulation to the Covance Research Products facility in Cumberland County, which breeds dogs in the thousands for use in research and science. medical and veterinary experimentation. The amendment removed a sentence from the current law that protected the Cumberland complex from state regulation because it is covered by federal law as a breeder of research animals.

Senators rejected Northam’s 3-36 amendment after the amended bill’s sponsor, D-Fairfax County Sen. David Marsden, said the amendment would inadvertently put the Cumberland resort out of business. He said Northam, when informed of the concern, agreed that the amendment should be rejected.

“The good news is…we can bring it back next year with appropriate code changes,” Marsden said.

D-Fairfax County Sen. Jennifer Boysko introduced a bill during this year’s legislative session that would have banned such livestock facilities. It was sent to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources to await action in 2021.

Boysko introduced the bill after viewing a drone video of the Covance compound in Cumberland which was posted on YouTube by a animal rights group. It showed dogs crammed into wire enclosures littered with feces, most barking or yelping, some fighting and others pacing nervously.

She noted that there were more than 5,000 beagles at the facility, but added that Northam’s amendment would not have shut it down. She said bringing the facility under state supervision had the support of many animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters.

Northam’s amendment, she said, “would require facilities to adhere to the exact same guidelines that we have established for all other facilities that breed animals for more than 30 dogs.”

Marsden said Covance agreed to allow state inspections starting this year, with no legislation to compel it. It belongs to Envigoa biotechnology and life science research services company that acquired it last summer from medical testing services giant LabCorp.

There was no immediate response to an email sent to Envigo seeking comment on Wednesday’s Senate vote.

However, a company spokesperson told a Mercury reporter earlier this year that Boykso’s legislation “would have been harmful to the people of Virginia and our country” and “would also have had a negative impact on human health.” and animal and would have unintended consequences for global scientific research.”

Freelance journalist Jahd Khalil contributed to this story.

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