RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A national animal welfare group has launched federal complaints against the Envigo research and dog breeding facility in Cumberland. One of those complaints seeks to put an end to breeding operations at the facility.
Calling it a “historic case of animal abuse,” SAEN, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revoke Envigo’s breeder license. The move follows a scathing inspection report citing the facility for dozens of animal welfare violations and puppy deaths.
“These violations are unprecedented,” said Michael Budkie, the co-founder of SAEN.
Budkie is a 35-year veteran of animal research investigations like the one at Envigo. He also has an animal health technology degree. He says the recent violations at Envigo are unlike any of the other’s he’s investigated. He said, “Personally, I have been looking at inspection reports for decades now. I can tell you that these inspection reports for Envigo, for this animal breeder facility, are probably among the five worst I have ever seen.”
USDA inspection reports released last week from a July visit found ill animals left untreated, nursing dogs deprived of food, and a “large accumulation of feces, urine, standing water, insects and uneaten food under the raised indoor and outdoor kennel floors.”
Perhaps most disturbing, the report noted “300 puppy deaths attributed to unknown causes.”
“Envigo’s staff didn’t notice these puppies were laying in the enclosure dead until they had begun to rot,” Budkie said.
The Ohio-based nonprofit fired off two federal watchdog complaints, one against the Envigo breeding facility, the other against the Envigo research lab. In the letters to the USDA, the group calls that July inspection an “astonishingly horrid inspection.”
SAEN also writes Envigo “should never be permitted to handle animals again.” The group calls on the USDA to not only revoke Envigo’s breeder license but to assess the maximum fine possible per infraction/per animal.
“We are calling for a fine of over $17 million,” Budkie said.
Envigo, which breeds and houses thousands of beagles for medical research, has told 8News they’ve “initiated and are continuing to take the necessary corrective actions for all issues outlined in the reports.” The breeder also said in a statement to 8News they “are committed to ensuring any sick animal receives the proper care they deserve.”
Two state senators are working on legislation for more oversight at Envigo and a plan to find about 400 of their beagles a new forever home. Senator Bill Stanley is still working out the adoption details.