Readers, you may well be aware that the 2022 General Assembly session has been divisive, hugely partisan and accomplished very little. All true and will continue to be true for the foreseeable future.
However, there is one subject that has been supported by all sides: protecting animal welfare and ensuring that our laws are upheld.
I am referring to the much-cited-for-violations-and-cruelty-to-animals Envigo beagle-breeding facility in Cumberland VA. That facility is owned by Envigo, a multi-million-dollar privately held corporation based in Indiana and owned by Inotiv, a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporation. The Cumberland facility has approximately 5,000 beagle dogs and puppies closely confined (read “caged”) and kept solely for the purpose of animal experimentation in the US and overseas. In a letter to Gov Youngkin signed by a coalition of animal welfare groups led by my Animal Welfare Caucus, we stated “Between July and October 2021, the USDA cited Envigo for 39 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act….violations included having just 17 staff members employed to care for 5,000 dogs and puppies, more than 300 puppy deaths attributed to ‘unknown causes’, intentionally depriving nursing mother dogs of food for two days as part of Envigo’s standard operating procedure for separating neonate puppies from their mother, puppy found covered with feces in a waste pan, a new-born puppy found in a drain under a cage, a dead puppy found eviscerated after kennelmates had chewed on her corpse, three dogs killed in fights, 71 dogs injured by dogs in adjacent cages, more than 450 dogs deprived of legally adequate space, hundreds of dogs and puppies confined to rooms in which the temperature reached 92.3 degrees, old dried and moldy feces’ in dog cages, up to 6 inches of feces piled up in a gutter, dogs denied veterinary care for severe dental disease, wounds, eye infections, crusted and oozing sores on their paws, multiple skin lesions with inflamed tissue. The facility remains under investigation and additional citations from a November 2021 inspection will be made public soon. The Envigo facility has operated in the Commonwealth without state oversight since 1961.”
This shameful situation will soon be addressed by five bipartisan bills enacting commonsense measures that will bring breeders of dogs and cats for experimental research in line with existing animal welfare laws. All 140 members of the General Assembly have supported this legislation requiring that dogs and cats in the possession of breeders that sell animals for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia’s “cruelty to animals” laws; requiring that such breeders offer “surplus” animals for adoption prior to euthanasia (this is how I came to be adopting my beagle),closing a loophole in existing law that applies to commercial dog breeders and dealers prohibiting the importation or sale of dogs or cats by anyone with certain AWA violations, requiring reports detailing puppy and dog deaths and causes. Unfortunately, my bill, which would have required regular reporting of facility conditions did not pass (did I say this was totally bipartisan? oops—no Democrat sponsored bills passed). The legislation containing these requirements has been signed by the Governor.
I plan to visit the Envigo facility with Senator Stanley to make sure that these newly-enacted laws are not ignored. In the meantime, my beagle, Lulabelle, is learning what it is like to walk on grass and be petted and held by humans. She is adapting but still very anxious at every loud sound or approaching person. My hope is that the 100 beagles still un-adopted will soon have the same opportunity.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.