CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Two Virginia lawmakers made a surprise visit to a controversial dog breeding facility in Cumberland. The unannounced visit comes as the Envigo breeding facility is cited again for animal welfare violations and was the subject of recent undercover video showing disturbing conditions inside.
Envigo breeds and sells beagles to be used in research. However, the lawmakers feel they are left with a plan for oversight and a chance to give hundreds of the dogs a loving home.
On Tuesday, Senator Bill Stanley adopted one of the beagles caged inside the Envigo.
“So far, the unnamed newest member of the Stanley family,” he said holding the 3-month-old beagle in his arms.
Soon, Stanley says others will be able to rescue a beagle from the facility too.
“There’s estimated that maybe 400 beautiful beagles like this one that need placements and good homes. Envigo pledged today to work with myself and a releasing agency or two to make sure we find forever homes for those dogs and give them that chance at love and life, like this little puppy right here,” Stanley said.
It was a bipartisan visit to see the beagles. Senator Stanley, a Republican, and Senator David Marsden, a Democrat, decided to stop in after a newly released USDA inspection cited the facility with 26 animal welfare violations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors uncovered “300 puppy deaths attributed unknown causes.” The report coincides with an undercover video released last week by the animal rights group, PETA.
A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal investigator noted more than 350 dog deaths.
“This was a very disappointing episode that took place with this USDA audit and undercover operation,” said Senator Dave Marsden.
8News has learned USDA inspectors were also at Envigo today following that PETA report and their latest inspection. In that federal inspection conducted in July, inspectors also found multiple dogs with health issues like severe dental disease, eye infections as well as nursing dogs deprived of food. They were “subjected to a 48-hour fast.”
The report also noted an “accumulation” of feces, urine and insects below kennel floors, infestations of flies and ants in dog feeders. In addition, the inspectors found hundreds animals housed in kennels where the temperature exceeded 85 degrees for hours with no way of cooling the building.
It’s not the first time the facility has been cited. After a visit last year to the kennels, both senators thought they had a plan in place to protect the animals.
Marsden said, “We had an arrangement in where the state veterinarian to come out and conduct inspections of the facility, it fell a little short of expectations. It turned into more of a visit than a detailed investigation.”
Now the lawmakers plan to draft legislation to provide more oversight.
“In my estimation, the best way to proceed forward is to have an inspector general paid for by the facility and it’s the parent company but working for the state but here full time,” Marsden said.
8News asked, why not just shut the troubled facility down.
Marsden said, “It is difficult to shut down a facility that is providing research animals. They learn how to do hip replacements using these animals. That sounds terrible but it benefits all of us to have research done.”
In a statement, Envigo said, “While the USDA inspections reflected that we have improvements to make, we had previously initiated and are continuing to take the necessary corrective actions for all issues outlined in the reports. We appreciate the information provided, take the feedback seriously, and recognize the improvements we are making are an ongoing effort.”
With regards to the medical issues raised, Envigo also tells us- “After the USDA visited our facility, we immediately began to address the concerns and develop treatment programs for all animals identified. We do not neglect our animals and are committed to ensuring any sick animal receives the proper care they deserve.”
As for adopting the beagles, Senator Stanley hopes to have something in place by the end of the week.