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Beagle breeding company fined €32 million in biggest ever penalty for animal welfare violations

An HSUS Animal Rescue Team member carries a beagle into the organization's care and rehabilitation center in Maryland on July 21, 2022,
An HSUS Animal Rescue Team member carries a beagle into the organization's care and rehabilitation center in Maryland on July 21, 2022, Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Greta Ruffino with AP
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A company was fined €32 million for neglecting thousands of dogs, including providing insufficient and contaminated food and water, and euthanizing them without sedation.

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A company that bred beagles for medical research agreed to pay a record $35 million (€32 million) in a landmark animal-welfare case on Monday in Virginia.

Envigo RMS, the company running the facility, and its parent company Inotiv, admitted to neglecting thousands of dogs at their breeding site.

The company was accused of keeping dogs in cages that were only cleaned twice a month, which is far less than the required daily cleaning. Dogs were euthanized without sedation, and many were injured by the metal grate floors. The food and water provided were also not enough and were dirty.

US Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh, who handled the case, said that Envigo kept a veterinarian who performed poor surgeries and allowed many violations because executives believed it would be too challenging to find a replacement.

Todd Kim,from the Justice Department, said Envigo "unlawfully enriched itself by failing to spend the necessary money for upgrades and by failing to hire enough trained and competent staff."

After the plea hearing, Inotiv issued a statement in response to the accusations.

"In committing the crimes identified in the charging document, and by not making the necessary infrastructure upgrades and hiring the requisite staff, we fell short of our standards for animal and environmental welfare and apologize to the public for the harm caused by our conduct, the company said," it says.

"In resolving this matter, we renew our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of animal care."

The plea deal also bans Envigo RMS and Inotiv from breeding or selling dogs in the future.

How did the investigation unfold?

The federal investigation of Envigo drew national attention in May 2022 when federal authorities conducted a search of the breeding facility in Cumberland County, Virginia, and found nearly 450 animals in acute distress.

The company later agreed to relinquish all 4000 beagles at the facility, which were sent around the country for adoption.

Kavanaugh said that the company generated $16 million (€14 million) in revenue between 2019 and May 2022, when the search occurred, through the sale of 15,000 beagles over that time.

Court records show that 300 puppies died over a seven-month stretch around 2021 for what was described as "unknown causes."

Environmental damages

In addition to animal mistreatment charges, the plea deal acknowledges that Envigo broke the Clean Water Act by releasing improperly treated wastewater.

Envigo must pay $3.5 million (€3.22 million) for environmental fixes and cover the cost of a monitor to ensure they follow the rules during their probation, which could last three to five years.

The Cumberland facility, which employed nearly 40 people, has been shuttered. Kavanaugh said it was woefully understaffed to care for thousands of dogs.

Prosecutors also said their investigation is ongoing and that criminal cases against individual employees remain possible.

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