CUMBERLAND, Va. — Editor's Note: The video above originally aired on April 4.
The Department of Justice is seeking a temporary restraining order against a Virginia dog breeding facility for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), according to a complaint filed Thursday.
WUSA9 first reported on the allegations against Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia on April 1. The company is contracted to breed dogs for the purpose of research and scientific experiments - regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
On Wednesday,145 dogs and puppies "in acute distress" were seized from the facility by USDA) investigators, according to the DOJ complaint.
"Envigo’s disregard for the law and the welfare of the beagles in its care has resulted in the animals’ needless suffering and, in some cases, death," the DOJ complaint said.
Between July 2021 and now, the facility, which houses up to 5,000 beagles, has been cited 60 times in less than a year for "non-compliance with the AWA." The DOJ complaint says more than half of the citations were deemed the most serious type of AWA citation. The complaint also alleges that Envigo has not hired enough employees to properly care for its beagles, that it chose to euthanize dogs when they suffer preventable injuries from overcrowding or unsanitary enclosures rather than provide treatment and that when dogs did die, the facility did not properly investigate their deaths.
"When 300 beagle puppies died in 7 months due to 'unknown causes,' Envigo failed to investigate and accurately diagnose the cause of death to spare other beagle puppies from similar deaths," the complaint states.
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) previously urged the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to suspend the facility's license for "repeated failures in providing adequate care" to the beagles. Warner and Kaine also raised concerns regarding the USDA's delays in publishing findings from inspections.
“While APHIS inspection reports have proven an invaluable resource in uncovering the breadth and depth of mistreatment occurring at the Envigo facilities, we are concerned with delays in publishing such reports," the senators wrote. "Advocates, legislators, and the public have waited months after inspections to review inspection report findings."
The senators say they appreciated the complexity of the reports and the immense care that animal care specialists take in preparing them but also say it is unacceptable that the public and elected officials were not privy to the horrific violations until months after the inspections happened and animals suffered in the interim.
When WUSA9 reached out to Envigo in April for comment, a spokesperson said they were making progress on improving the conditions at the Cumberland facility, working toward a goal of one caretaker for every 100 dogs, and has adopted out nearly 500 of the 5,000 dogs housed there.
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