CUMBERLAND, Virginia. (WRIC) – The controversy surrounding the Envigo dog breeding facility in Cumberland County continues to grow and has led Virginia senators to demand federal action.
A United States Department of Agriculture inspection, which took place on March 8, found five repeat violations, bringing the total number of violations found at the facility to 70 since July 2021. The facility raises beagles for research purposes.
These violations were found during a focused inspection which, according to USDA’s Andre Bell, was undertaken to address previous citations.
Issues noted in the report include violations relating to the dogs’ health, the quality of their housing and enclosures, the compatibility of their grouping, and the quality of their food and feeding systems.
What the report found
The facility was again cited for failing to provide adequate medical care to its dogs. Inspectors found injuries to animals that had not been identified or treated by the facility. This included scab-covered sores with yellow discharge on a dog’s ear.
Housing facilities for dogs have been found to have holes in the floors up to two inches wide – large enough for a dog’s foot or leg to fall through or get stuck. One hundred and thirty enclosures were found with such deficiencies.
Two dogs became actively trapped in gaps in the floor of their enclosure. The former got his foot stuck while inspecting after a scuffle broke out between several dogs. The other was found by inspectors with both feet stuck in the ground.
Some of these floors had little support underneath and they bounced and bowed under the weight of the dogs, according to the report.
The enclosure walls were found to be unsecured, rusted to the point of breaking and with sharp edges at floor level. Some of the chain link fences, which the walls are made of, were loose and dogs could grow underneath. Medical records show that this specific issue had injured at least one dog since November. Eight other injuries, these to dog tails, are being investigated as they may also have been caused by this issue.
Compatibility issues between dogs housed together led to fights, resulting in the injury of 59 dogs, some seriously. Eight dogs were euthanized due to injuries sustained in dogfights.
The inspector also noted that the automatic feeders providing food to the dogs were not being cleaned properly. This led to mold growth, spoiled feeders, and wet, caked food. The report notes, “This gunk appeared to be a combination of hair, saliva, food particles and skin oils. Some of the grime is so thick that inspectors had trouble scraping it off with their fingers.
Mark Hubbard, spokesperson for Envigo, noted that these five violations, which are recurrences from a previous inspection, show “significant progress” over the 26 violations found in the USDA’s November 11, 2021 report. .
“The USDA has also provided Envigo with a rating that recognizes the improvements made and momentum gained over the past 4 months at Cumberland,” Envigo said in a statement provided by Hubbard to 8News. “Additionally, the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) recently indicated that the Cumberland site is recommended for continued accreditation based on improvements being made.”
Hubbard declined 8News’ request to see the USDA memo.
Documents outlining improvements made over the past four months at the Cumberland Envigo facility reflected the plan outlined by the company in November, including improved wages, increased staff, improved training, improving infrastructure and improving outreach to find homes for dogs that are no longer needed at the facility.
In a press release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) noted the continuing problems and growing number of violations. The statement also raised suspicion that the decrease in the number of violations cited in this latest report may indicate a lack of initiative on the part of the USDA.
Notably, three of the four inspectors present on March 8 had not participated in recent inspections of the facility, and other personnel from previous inspections were omitted from the latest team, raising questions for PETA as to whether if the USDA, which has yet to assist Envigo’s dogs or suspend its license, bows to pressure from Envigo,” a spokesperson said.
Politicians demand action
In light of the latest report, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to Kevin Shea, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the USDA branch responsible for the reports.
In the letter, they urged the department to immediately suspend the Envigo Cumberland facility’s license, calling the abuse “persistent and flagrant.”
“It is clear to us that Envigo has failed in its duty to provide humane care to its dogs and is unable to meet the basic standards set forth in animal welfare law,” Warner and Kaine wrote. “The role of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in ensuring humane treatment of animals goes beyond routine and targeted inspections.”
Warner and Kaine also demanded answers from APHIS to a series of questions regarding the facility by April 20. These questions included whether or not APHIS planned to impose enforcement measures against Envigo.
Warner spoke with 8News about the facility and, after assuring 8News of his love of dogs – especially his family dog Finn – added: “I think this facility’s license should be revoked until they can clean up their act.”
“We’ve seen these horrible incidents…it needs to be shut down,” Warner said. “Not only do we want the Cumberland facility temporarily closed to ensure we don’t see these violations, but we want to ensure there is a thorough review of Envigo facilities elsewhere in the country.”
In response to a previous 8News story regarding Environmental Protection Agency violations at this Envigo facility, Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38th District), chair of the Animal Welfare Caucus in Virginia, said in an April 1 press release: “Conditions at Envigo’s Cumberland facility are inhumane and have resulted in the suffering and death of their dogs.
“We will not condone your abuse of these animals,” Kory added.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed legislation Monday morning banning facilities violating animal welfare from selling dogs or cats and instituting tougher penalties for such violations. These laws include HB1350, SB87, SB88 and SB604. Stick with 8News for more as this story develops.