Thursday, September 29, 2022
HomeNewsA Virginia facility is rescuing 4,000 beagles. They now need new housing.

A Virginia facility is rescuing 4,000 beagles. They now need new housing.

The authorities had about two months to find homes for the dogs after they were found at a facility that had violated dozens of federal regulations.

More than 100 beagles arrived in a truck from a breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.Credit...Sue Bell/Homeward Trails
More than 100 beagles arrived in a truck from a breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.Credit…Sue Bell/Homeward Trails

According to court documents, when USDA inspectors visited a beagle breeding facility in Virginia last year, they discovered a female beagle whose paw had been trapped in shoddy flooring for so long that she was dehydrated. Inspectors were told by facility employees that they had no idea how long she had been stuck.

Another inspection discovered that nine injured beagles were euthanized rather than receiving veterinary care. During a subsequent visit, it was discovered that many of the 196 beagles who needed to be euthanized did not receive anesthesia before being euthanized via an injection to the heart muscle.

Several inspections of the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia, over the last two years have revealed dozens of violations of federal regulations, leaving the beagles malnourished, ill, injured, and, in some cases, dead. On May 18, the USD.A. inspector general and other law enforcement agencies executed a federal search warrant at the facility, seizing 145 dogs and puppies deemed to be in “acute distress” by veterinarians.

The following day, federal authorities in the Western District of Virginia filed a complaint. A federal judge last week approved a plan to rescue approximately 4,000 beagles from the facility.

Federal authorities now have about 60 days to get the beagles out of the facility and into new homes. The dogs have been placed in the care of the Humane Society of the United States, a non-profit organization. If everything goes as planned, the dogs could be adopted by late August after being spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and treated for any health issues.

Cassie Staubus has agreed to foster some of these dogs after they are released through the Beagle Freedom Project, a non-profit animal rescue. She is willing to drive from Minnesota to Virginia to pick them up and assist in the re-homing process. Ms. Staubus already has Stinky, a 6-year-old beagle, and two other dogs, so she believes that fostering is the best way for her to help because she already has a house full of pets.

“It’s just a great feeling to save someone’s life and show them love they’ve never known before,” she said.

Mary Hunter Gallalee of Virginia is ready to welcome two beagles to her 200-acre farm in Prospect, Va., after retiring from teaching for 42 years. They will join her three existing dogs, Baby Girl, Dalila, and Gypsy, and Ms. Gallalee has already applied to adopt and devote time to caring for the beagles, a breed she has previously owned.

“They’re friendly, happy, and enjoy life,” she said. “They love to cuddle, but then they say, ‘OK, I’m done,’ and go play in the backyard out on the farm.”

Envigo, a research organization acquired by Inotiv last year that works with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, said in a statement on Friday that it had agreed to the plan.

Envigo, a research organization acquired by Inotiv last year that works with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, announced on Friday that it had agreed to the plan to transfer the dogs. According to the company’s website, it breeds “healthy, well-socialized animals” for research purposes, and it has a USDA license to breed and sell the dogs. In June, the company stated that the closure of the Cumberland facility would amount to less than 1% of Inotiv’s total revenue.

In facility inspections that began in July 2021, after Envigo acquired the site, federal officials documented what they called a “long history of mistreatment and endangering the beagles at the site,” where the dogs frequently lived with inches of feces and food waste, according to court documents.

Envigo declined to comment on the specific allegations made in the federal complaint. The lawyers for the company did not respond to requests for comment.

Beagles at the Envigo facility in Cumberland, Va., in August, 2021.Credit...People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Beagles at the Envigo facility in Cumberland, Va., in August, 2021.Credit…People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

According to the complaint, records show that from January 1, 2021, to July 22, 2021, the deaths of more than 300 beagle puppies at the facility were attributed to “unknown causes.”

Officials discovered the female beagle with her left paw trapped in the flooring during a facility inspection in July 2021. “She was standing on her other three feet, panting quickly and making small movements, while the other three dogs in the kennel jumped around her excitedly,” according to the July inspection report.

According to the inspection report, officials discovered that one of the buildings at the site had no air conditioning for the dogs, only one large fan and two exhaust fans. The temperatures in the rooms that day were in the high 80s and low 90s.

Following reports of the violations, Representative Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia, and six other members of Congress wrote to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in February, urging the agency to suspend Envigo’s license or confiscate the animals. The following month, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, sent the agency another letter demanding that Envigo’s license be suspended immediately due to “consistent and egregious violations” at its facility.

In March, 446 Envigo beagles were placed in foster homes and shelters across the United States. Sue Bell, founder and executive director of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Virginia, assisted in transporting this group of dogs, which she described as a large number at the time but only a fraction of the thousands to be released later this year.

She stated that one of the logistics priorities would be to determine which dogs should be released first, such as puppies or pregnant and nursing dogs, because they can be socialized at a young age.

“I’m really looking forward to telling the story of these dogs and what they’ve been through,” Ms. Bell said. “I really hope the public will step up, and we can see this as the start of a pretty significant change.”

Beagles from the Envigo facility at Homeward Trails Adoption Center.Credit...Sue Bell/Homeward Trails
Beagles from the Envigo facility at Homeward Trails Adoption Center.Credit…Sue Bell/Homeward Trails

Republican state Senator Bill Stanley recently proposed legislation that would have restricted the sale of companion animals — or pets — for research in Virginia. It failed, and Sen. Stanley was later invited to tour the Envigo facility, he said.

Mr. Stanley purchased two dogs from Envigo (later named Daisy and Dixie) during two separate tours of the facility in August 2020 and November 2021, and said the conditions he saw were upsetting. The conditions were also described as inhumane in a PETA report from 2021.

Other legislators have dubbed Mr. Stanley “Senator Beagle,” He says anyone interested in adopting one of the beagles can call his office to get on a waiting list for when they arrive at shelters and rescue centers. The dogs will be released beginning Friday and will all be in shelters, rescue centers, or more permanent homes by September, he said.

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