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A beleaguered breeder faces a record $35 million fine for mistreating its beagles

  

Category:  Pets & Animals

Via:  hallux  •  one week ago  •  12 comments

By:   Rachel Treisman - NPR

A beleaguered breeder faces a record $35 million fine for mistreating its beagles

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Almost exactly two years after   thousands of beagles were rescued   from unsafe conditions at a breeding facility in Virginia, the company behind it has agreed to pay a record $35 million in fines.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Virginia   announced on Monday   that Envigo RMS LLC — which owned and operated the now-shuttered Cumberland County facility — pleaded guilty to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide adequate veterinary care and staffing.

Meanwhile, Envigo Global Services Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act by failing to properly operate and maintain the wastewater treatment plant at that same facility.

Prosecutors say that not only harmed the health of dogs at the facility but also led to “massive unlawful discharges” of untreated wastewater into a local waterway.

“Everyone victimized in this precedent-setting animal welfare case deserved better: the workers, the beagles, the environment and the community,” Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator David Uhlmann said.”Envigo deserves every dollar of its record fine.”

Inotiv, Envigo's Indiana-based parent company, must pay what federal prosecutors call the largest-ever fine in an animal welfare case.

It starts with a total criminal fine of $22 million ($11 million for each violation). The company must also pay some $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force and $1.9 million to the Humane Society of the United States for their assistance in the investigation.

It must also pay the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $3.5 million “to benefit and restore the environment and ecosystems” in Cumberland County and spend at least $7 million to improve Envigo's other facilities and personnel in line with federal standards.

Inotiv also agreed to pay for a compliance monitor to oversee its operations at about 20 other facilities in North America and Europe, according to   member station WVTF . It must also continue not to breed dogs and serve a probationary period of three to five years, among other provisions.

In a “ statement of contrition ” issued Monday, the company expressed regret and said it hopes others will learn from its experience.

“In committing the crimes identified in the charging document, and by not making the necessary infrastructure upgrades and hiring the requisite staff, we fell short of our standards for animal and environmental welfare and apologize to the public for the harm caused by our conduct,” it said.


Formal sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Dogs destined for research for labs were rescued from dire conditions


Envigo, which breeds and sells laboratory animals for research, has been the subject of animal rights groups’ complaints and federal investigation dating back years, specifically over its Virginia facility.

In 2021, an   undercover investigation   by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) documented the   abuse and neglect   of the beagles there, including more than 360 puppies lying dead among their littermates, staff depriving nursing mothers of food and unqualified workers cutting puppies out of sedated dogs’ abdomens before euthanizing the mothers.

PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which corroborated those findings — and reported other troubling observations, like dogs being denied veterinary care and dying after falling into a drain — in several inspections of its own. It hit the facility with more than 70 Animal Welfare Act violations in 10 months.

“Envigo’s conduct led to the deaths of hundreds of dogs and harm to thousands more,” Todd Kim, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said at a   press conference Monday . “The cycle continued until law enforcement and the Justice Department stepped in.”

In May 2022, federal authorities searched the facility and seized more than 450 dogs who were in “acute distress.”

“Dogs were subject to euthanasia without proper sedation,” Kim said on Monday. “Food was withheld from nursing mothers. Dogs lived in overcrowded kennels cleaned so infrequently that feces accumulated. Dogs were given non-potable drinking water and, at times, food contaminated with maggots and other insects. Envigo knew all this, and more. And yet Envigo failed to take sufficient action to bring this facility into compliance.”

He added that Envigo had received some $16 million through the sale of nearly 15,000 dogs between 2019 and spring 2022 but didn’t put the necessary money into facility upgrades and hiring competent staff because it “placed profit before compliance with the law.”

He said investigators also found that Envigo wasn’t investing the requisite funds to bring its on-site wastewater treatment plant into compliance with federal law, even as it increased the amount of water that went into it.

It used water “laden with fecal matter” to flush the troughs below the dogs’ kennels, he said, and discharged more than 600,000 gallons of inadequately treated wastewater into a nearby creek.

In July 2022, under a consent agreement and with the assistance of the Humane Society of the United States, some   4,000 beagles were transferred out of the facility   and into more than 100 animal shelters and foster homes across the country. The facility ceased operations that September.

By that point, the   Humane Society said,   all 3,776 beagles — once nameless, toyless and destined for research labs — were on their way to their new families, including some big names.

One went to   Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex , and Prince Harry; another was adopted by New Jersey   Gov. Phil Murphy   to become the state’s First Beagle. A third even competed in the   2023 Puppy Bowl .

More than a dozen rescued dogs and their owners gathered in the D.C. area last September to celebrate their   first “beagle-versary ,” at an event organized by the Humane Society. The dogs played together in the grass and   ate cupcakes , many wearing “Envigo survivor” bandanas.


“Last time we saw these dogs, all they knew was life in a mass-breeding facility,” Jessica Johnson, a senior director of its Animal Rescue Team,   said at the time . “Seeing them here with their adopted families a year later is amazing — I hope that this is all they remember."

Animal activists welcome the accountability and want more


Animal rights groups applauded the news on Monday, thanking advocates for their work and calling for even greater accountability.

“Envigo executives chose to collect more than $11 million off 10,000 beagles’ misery, rather than addressing systemic violations they knew about, and criminal charges for them and others responsible for the cruelty in Cumberland must be next,”   PETA said in a statement .

The Virginia-based Homeward Trails Rescue Alliance, which says it was the first group to sign an agreement with Evigo to rescue 500 dogs from its property, said   on Facebook   that it is “THRILLED to see this day come.”

“Each time we left that property we looked back with a broken heart seeing all the remaining Beagles who were going to be sent to cruel laboratories,” they added. “And now they are closed.”

The Humane Society   said in a statement   that it is “grateful that those responsible for their suffering are being held accountable.” But it said there is more to be done.

Even though the Cumberland facility is closed, Inotiv owns multiple companies and facilities that breed and sell animals — including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice — for research. It is also a major supplier of endangered long-tailed macaque monkeys to U.S. labs, PETA notes.

The   Wall Street Journal   reported last August that the company was under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into whether its imports of monkeys violate anti-foreign bribery laws. A company representative told the outlet it was cooperating with the probe.

The Humane Society said its 2021 investigation of one of Inotiv’s contract testing labs in Indiana revealed dogs being given high doses of substances even when vomiting, feverish and unable to stand.

“The animals spent their days behind bars and were subjected to painful procedures such as being force-fed substances via stomach tubes, injections and multiple blood draws,” it added. “Most of the animals were killed at the end of the studies, as is typical for any drug testing.”

The organization is urging Inotiv and the larger industry to seek alternatives to animal testing, including 3D printing and artificial intelligence.


It is also calling on members of the public to urge their elected officials to support the   Better CARE for Animals Act , which would give the DOJ more tools to enforce the Animal Welfare Act “and ideally, intervene faster at facilities with documented violations to save the lives of suffering animals, like these beagles, before it is too late.”


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Hallux
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    one week ago

$%!!^ and other explicatives.

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Professor Principal
1.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Hallux @1    one week ago

No kidding!!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Hallux @1    one week ago

Why did it take so long?

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    one week ago

NOT BEAGLES!!!!

One of the most lovable dog breeds in teh world. I hope they go bankrupt

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3  Kavika     one week ago

The treatment of the beagles should remind us that many of these ''labs'' are nothing more than torture chambers for animals. 

Like Trout I hope they go bankupt.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @3    one week ago

These labs should be shut down.

Look at that face up there. It's the face of an angel

Can you tell I'm partial to Beagles?

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
3.1.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Trout Giggles @3.1    one week ago

A goofy angel, but an angel nonetheless.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Hallux @3.1.1    one week ago

384 I had a miniature beagle named Buster. I loved that dog to pieces

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
3.1.3  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Trout Giggles @3.1.2    one week ago

I get the feeling Buster kinda liked you too.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  Hallux @3.1.3    one week ago

Yeah. We were BFFs

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
4  Sparty On    one week ago

Good

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
5  Ed-NavDoc    one week ago

While I normally detest PETA for their over the top radical fanaticism, looks like they actually did some good on this one.

 
 

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