Seven legislators have introduced 11 animal welfare bills in the Virginia General Assembly after investigations by PETA and the USDA found troubling conditions at a Cumberland beagle breeder-for-research. A newly-published report of an October 2021 site visit to the Envigo facility lists violations including staff providing medication without veterinarian approval, dangerous kennels blamed for deaths of multiple puppies, and buildup of grime and feces. Poor record-keeping was blamed for untreated medical conditions, unrecorded deaths, and an inability to determine cause of death in other cases.

There continue to be severe staffing shortages and currently there are approximately 32 employees at the facility, with only 17 staff members directly responsible for all husbandry, daily observations, and medical treatments for almost 5000 dogs,” the report states.

Mortality records show that from 2 Aug 2021 to 3 Oct 2021, nine dogs […] were injured from having a body part (such as a limb or tail) pulled through the wall of the kennel by a dog in an adjacent kennel and bitten. The exact injuries varied in each case, however regardless of whether it was a minor or substantial injury, these nine dogs were subsequently euthanized. Dogs sustaining injuries from being pulled through the enclosure wall have experienced physical harm and unnecessary pain,” the report states.

According to the manager of operations, a newborn puppy was found in the drains below the kennels on 10132021. The Manager of Operations explained that the facility had recently laid down a new type of flooring on top of the existing kennel grate to enhance puppy safety. The manager believes that the puppy fell into the drain because one dam […] had shifted a piece of the flooring, exposing a gap, and whelped on top of the old flooring,” the report states. “The puppy was found between 1-2 p.m. and immediately brought to the clinic for a bath and was returned to the above dam who had recently whelped near where the puppy was found. The puppy was also provided supplemental heat but died later that day. The Manager of Operations stated that in response to this incident, employees replaced the flooring and added paper to the back of the kennels to prevent another occurrence.”

The facility was previously owned by LabCorp’s Covance segment, and conditions at the facility have been a concern for years. In 2019, PETA published a 2017 USDA report from the then-Covance facility listing dangerous enclosures, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate veterinary care. In June 2019, SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) flew a drone over the site, capturing video of numerous rowdy beagles together in cages. An August 2019 USDA report found no problems.

“They had like 10,000 dogs, it was in bad shape. Envigo bought it, cleaned it up, they said, but then during the pandemic with the lack of staff, and no one’s buying experimental dogs during the pandemic, they had some issues with the humane treatment of those animals,” Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) told The Virginia Star.

In July 2021, the USDA found problems again, in part due to a lack of staffing. PETA conducted its own undercover investigation in 2021.

“Over the course of the investigation, PETA’s eyewitness found more than 350 puppies dead among their live littermates and mothers. Some puppies had been inadvertently crushed to death by their mothers inside the cramped cages, while others suffered from hydrocephalus (in which fluid builds up inside the skull and puts pressure on the brain), were eviscerated, or just couldn’t survive the harsh conditions,” PETA reported.

After PETA reported its findings, Envigo said in a press release published by WRIC, “PETA has made several accusations regarding our canine breeding facility and some of our staff. Many of these allegations we know to be misleading and lacking important context. However, any allegations towards our staff or our company are taken seriously, and we have launched an investigation to assess whether any improper actions occurred within the facility.”

Envigo said it was incorporating feedback from the two 2021 USDA investigations, and cited $3 million in upgrades to the facility.

The USDA found more violations in its October 2021 visit.

In November, Senators Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) and David Marsden (D-Fairfax) made an unannounced visit to the facility.

“I must say that the Envigo representatives were very candid with us, and we appreciated that very much,” Stanley told The Farmville Herald.

Mark Hubbard, senior vice president at public affairs and lobbying firm McGuire Woods, provided a statement: “Envigo is following the Virginia legislative process and will be providing relevant testimony during the committee discussions. We are proud of the investments and improvements we have made at the Cumberland facility, both prior to and following recent inspections, and continue to work with policymakers to ensure the critical need for human and animal medical research is met in a safe and humane way.”


In 2020, the Senate killed bills from Stanley and Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) that would have banned breeding dogs for research not required by federal law, or for sale outside the U.S. Boysko told The Star that resistance to efforts to ban breeding-for-testing comes in part from concerns about jobs lost if the Cumberland facility closes.

That same session, Marsden introduced SB 891, which created new regulations for pet shops and creates an animal welfare inspection position. The bill passed, but the General Assembly rejected an amendment from then-Governor Ralph Northam that would have included breeders-for-research under the expanded regulation.

“We understood there had been an investigation at Envigo where dogs were found in horrible conditions, like massive amounts of fecal material, uncared-for dogs in the cages. And I brought a bill up working with PETA asking that we stop allowing them to be sold in other countries where there’s not an FDA-approved reason for them to set,” Boysko said.

“We were given what I understood was a commitment that we will have a state veterinarian go on an unannounced inspection of the facility. To my knowledge, the veterinarian has gone on planned visits,” Boysko said.

Expecting similar results this year, Stanley is trying a broader approach.

“This time, knowing that that’s probably still the will of the General Assembly, I’ve put in bills, so has Senator Marsden, that will create an oversight and an accountability for Envigo and a regulatory process that will prevent this from ever happening again,” Stanley said.

Stanley is carrying three bills focused on breeders-for-testing: SB 87, a ban on importing or selling dogs or cats from organizations with recent USDA violations; SB 88, which would require breeders to keep individual records on dogs or cats for two years after sale to the testing facility; SB 90, which would requires breeders to offer unneeded dogs or cats for adoption before euthanization; and SB 604, which places breeders-for-testing under animal cruelty statutes.

Boysko is carrying SB 457, another bill to prohibit breeding dogs or cats for research not required by federal law, or for sale outside the U.S. Stanley is a cosponsor of the bill. Boysko said that at least a third of Envigo’s market is outside the U.S.

“Let me just make this clear: Envigo has a $545 million value. They have 17 people providing care to 5,000 dogs. There is no way that they are doing proper oversight and care of these animals. And you know, we have talked to them. We have been kind and believing, but you know my answer is, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ I am unwilling to give them a second chance,” Boysko said. “I think that we need to throw the book at them.”

Boysko is also carrying SB 442, requiring breeders-for-testing to file monthly reports with the State Veterinarian. Marsden is sponsoring SB 535, which requires the State Veterinarian to hire an Animal Welfare Oversight Officer to inspect research breeders.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News) has introduced HB 255, which would ban state entities including state colleges and universities from procuring dogs and cats for research from facilities that have recent USDA violations. In 2021, PETA called on Virginia Tech to stop buying beagles from Envigo. In December, a spokesperson told The Washington Post that the university stopped buying dogs from Envigo in 2020, although Envigo did donate cadavers to the school in 2021.

Delegate Irene Shin (D-Herndon) has introduced HB 1061, which would ban breeders from raising dogs or cats to sell to testing facilities outside the U.S.

Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) and Delegate Buddy Fowler, Jr. (R-Spotsylvania) are sponsoring HB 1313, called Greta’s Law, named after Fowler’s beagle. The bill would require breeders-for-testing to keep records of each animal for two years after sale, similar to SB 88. Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) is carrying a HB 1350, a companion to Stanley’s SB 87.

Beagles for Adoption

Stanley isn’t just working on legislation.

He said, “In the meantime, I sat down with Envigo, they have a surplus of about 400 dogs, and so I’ve been trying to find adoptive homes, working with the releasing agencies, the humane societies to try to find homes for these mostly female dogs, they’re between eleven months and fourteen months old. So if you know anyone who wants a beagle, I have two, and they’re beautiful, they’re wonderful dogs.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].