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Virginia lawmakers step in with 11 bipartisan bills to hold dog breeding facility accountable

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Dozens of animal welfare violations and persistent reports of deplorable conditions inside a Virginia dog farm have finally prompted state lawmakers to take action. They have now tabled 11 bipartisan bills aimed at addressing Envigo’s concerns.

8News has for several years exposed poor and harmful conditions inside the breeding and research facility, which houses more than 5,000 dogs for medical research. Envigo is a global company valued at over $500 million.

On January 26, the USDA released a scathing inspection report following a visit in October. The Cumberland facility was cited for 13 animal welfare violations. This is in addition to 26 violations documented in October 2021.

This inspection was triggered by a secret PETA video and an earlier USDA inspection that found “300 puppy deaths attributed to unknown causes.”

The October federal inspection report was released this week. He said sick and injured dogs had gone untreated, a newborn puppy was found dead in the sewers and there were ongoing issues with dirty kennels.

“It’s barbaric and hideous,” Del said. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax).

She and Del. Buddy Fowler (R-Caroline) sponsor Greta’s Law, named after Fowlers’ beagle who often comes to work with him.

Fowler said, “The violations, I mean, are just awful.”

The bill would require Envigo to track dogs born, sold, or found dead at its facility.

The report noted “a pile of excrement” said to be piled “5 to 6 inches high”.

Fowler said, “They don’t deserve to live like this.”

Fowler, a beagle breeder himself, shook his head, “I have to keep my kennels clean.

“It’s just unacceptable,” he added.

The 11 bills range in scope from increasing accountability and transparency to implementing statewide oversight.

“We should all be ashamed and embarrassed that this is happening close to home,” Kory said. She is happy to see so many fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle taking action.

Other bills include Senate Bill 535, which creates an Animal Welfare Oversight Officer to inspect operations at Envigo. Senate Bill 604 would close a loophole that allows Envigo to escape state animal cruelty charges.

“These are violations for which I would be charged with a felony,” explained PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch. Nachminovitch helped start the new Virginia Coalition for the Protection of Beagles. The coalition is made up of dozens of animal rescue groups and humane societies. They contacted lawmakers and gave their full support to the bills.

“These bills could mean the difference of life or death for these long-suffering beagles,” Nachminovitch said.

Envigo told 8News in a statement, “Envigo is following Virginia’s legislative process and will provide relevant testimony during committee discussions. We are proud of the investments and improvements we have made at the Cumberland facility and continue to work with policy makers to ensure the critical need for human and animal medical research is met in a safe and humane manner.

Some of the bills will be heard in subcommittees next week. In the meantime, Nachminovitch wonders why the USDA didn’t do more and seize the animals they found injured or revoke Envigo’s breeding license. Several groups have asked the USDA to revoke Envigo’s license.

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