Stop Animal Exploitation Now, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, PETA, National Geographic, & Humane Society of the U.S. all assist in bringing beagles to freedom and breeder to justice
RICHMOND, Virginia––Running out of patience with the laboratory animal supply company Envigo, U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon late on July 1, 2022 ordered Envigo to surrender to the Humane Society of the U.S. all of the estimated 4,000 beagles remaining at the closed Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland County, Virginia.
“A joint plan between the Department of Justice and Envigo will facilitate” transferring “ownership and physical custody” of the beagles “to the Humane Society of the Unites States, which will work to place these dogs into homes,” reported the Augusta Free Press, of Waynesboro, Virginia.
Biggest dog impoundment in history of Animal Welfare Act
“This transfer is the result of a warrant and subsequent lawsuit filed by federal authorities after U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine shed light on the issue and demanded federal action,” the Augusta Free Press said.
The Moon order facilitated the largest impoundment of dogs from a laboratory animal breeding compound in the 57-year history of the Animal Welfare Act, originally passed in 1966 as the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act.
Judge doesn’t buy Envigo scheme to sell the beagles
Elaborated CBS 19 News, of Lynchburg, Virginia, “A request for yet more time to come up with a plan to transfer dogs out of an embattled facility in Cumberland County has been denied.
“Judge Norman Moon rejected Envigo’s attempt to transfer some 2,000 dogs to a sister company, saying the company had received exactly what it had asked for in an injunction that was issued on June 17.
“At that time,” CBS 19 News summarized, “the court said Envigo could fulfill existing contracts that involved about 500 dogs, but then it attempted to fill contracts for a sister company, Envigo Global Services.
“The company told the court that this was a normal part of its business practices and it should be allowed to continue to operate in this manner. The judge disagreed, saying that Envigo did not mention any other business practice and did not ask for any other dispensation regarding the injunction.”
HSUS to arrange for beagle adoptions
Under the joint plan submitted to Judge Moon by Envigo and the U.S. Department of Justice, CBS 19 News said, “It is anticipated that it will take about 60 days after the plan is approved to physically remove all of the animals from the facility.
“Ownership of the animals will be transferred to the Humane Society of the United States, which will place as many dogs as it can in shelters on the East Coast and in the Midwest.”
Beagles “under eight weeks of age will be transported with their mothers,” CBS 19 News reported, “and no beagles will be transferred to a shelter located outside of the U.S.
Envigo to pay $4.5 million
“For each animal that is transferred out of the Cumberland County facility, Envigo will pay $100 for its care. If it is a nursing mother and her litter, Envigo will pay $150,” CBS 19 News added.
The stipends for care of the beagles will add up to a penalty of about $4.5 million.
Envigo, formed by a merger of Huntingdon Life Sciences with Harlan Labs, reportedly operating at least 20 former Huntingdon and Harlan laboratory animal breeding facilities around the world, announced intent to close the Cumberland County beagle breeding kennels on June 13, 2022.
Envigo was paid to take the kennels
Envigo acquired the kennels as part of a July 2019 deal with LabCorp in which Envigo took over the former Covance Research Products assets from LabCorp, transferred other assets to LabCorp, and received $485 million in cash from LabCorp.
The Cumberland County kennels had already been found grossly deficient by USDA-APHIS.
The Ohio-based organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) on October 16, 2017 called upon USDA-APHIS to fine Covance the maximum $10,000 per animal for allowing conditions in the kennels that a USDA-APHIS inspection report detailed in graphic terms.
Top-tier beagles pooped on those below
Wrote the inspector, “In buildings 96 and 97 there were two levels of enclosures in each of the rooms. There was waste from the top enclosure that was dripping down the wall of the lower enclosure and was collecting on the wall. There was brown staining on the majority of the lower enclosure walls in the these buildings.”
In other words, the beagles above were more-or-less pooping on those below.
The Illinois-based organization Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] became involved in 2017, producing drone video of the conditions both then and two years later that ANIMALS 24-7 detailed on July 18, 2019.
Trump administration didn’t give a @#$%
By that time the kennels had already passed annual USDA-APHIS inspections three times since the Animal Welfare Act violations addressed by Stop Animal Exploitation Now were first reported.
This, wrote Rachel Fobar for National Geographic, was part of “a pattern of USDA failure to take action over animal welfare violations during the past several years, marked by a 90% drop in enforcement actions against licensed animal facilities between 2015 and 2020,” mostly coinciding with the tenure of Sonny Perdue, who was Agriculture Secretary throughout the Donald Trump presidency.
New Virginia laws
“Legislators were prompted to pursue legislation for the beagles after SHARK’s drone video footage of Envigo went viral,” emailed Showing Animals Respect & Kindness to supporters.
The drone video helped boost passage of five Virginia state bills endorsed into law by Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin on April 4, 2022.
Two of the new laws prohibit dealers or breeders with Animal Welfare Act care violations from engaging in further sales of dogs or cats after July 1, 2023.
Another law adds Virginia state record-keeping requirements to the existing federal requirements.
The fourth of the new laws requires breeders to offer surplus dogs or cats for adoption before they are euthanized.
Most significant of the five new laws may be SB 604, which amends language in the state code exempting federally regulated “research animals” from state animal welfare laws to specify that dogs and cats in the possession of breeders are protected by Virginia law.
“SHARK’s years of drone work is finally getting these poor dogs some long overdue help,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness said at the time, “but there are still thousands more beagles, primates, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals remaining at Envigo – which needs to be permanently shut down.”
PETA found “5,000 beagles intensively confined”
“A 2021 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals undercover investigation found 5,000 beagle dogs and puppies intensively confined to small, barren kennels and cages” at the Envigo kennels,” PETA recounted.
“Since July 2021,” PETA said, “the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Envigo for more than 70 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and the agency corroborated PETA’s findings. The dogs had no beds, no toys, no stimulation—no real lives. For more than 50 years, various companies have bred them at this dog factory farm to sell to laboratories for experimentation.
“The dogs were kept in sheds that stretched as long as a football field and were deafeningly loud when hundreds of them barked at once. The noise level reached over 117 decibels—louder than a rock concert—and of course, the dogs have no way to escape from the virtually constant noise.
“The crowded and stressful conditions cause the animals to fight, often resulting in injuries, especially to their ears.”
“Female dogs are bred repeatedly for years. Many gave birth to puppies on the hard floor,” PETA continued.
“Immediately cease breeding, selling, or otherwise dealing in beagles”
U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, after examining evidence collected by USDA-APHIS and PETA, on May 21, 2022 ordered Envigo to “immediately cease breeding, selling, or otherwise dealing in beagles” until conditions violating the Animal Welfare Act are corrected.
Specifically, reported Rachel Fobar for National Geographic, Envigo was to separate beagles who fight with each other, ensure that every puppy had access to clean water, and submit an inventory of every dog to USDA-APHIS.
“More than 5,000 dogs were crowded in small, barren cages lined with feces and mold. A three-week-old puppy was stuck in a waste pan under his cage, dried feces matting his fur. Fights between kennel mates had left some dogs dead, including one by ‘evisceration,’” Fobar summarized.
“These violations and dozens more were documented in recent United States Department of Agriculture public inspection reports. Yet for months,” Fobar wrote, USDA-APHIS “neither confiscated any dogs nor suspended or revoked” the Envigo operating license.
“In early May,” Fobar continued, “National Geographic approached the USDA for comment about the facility’s history of violations and ongoing welfare problems. On May 18, 2022, authorities from the USDA and the Department of Justice confiscated 145 dogs in need of immediate medical care, according to a complaint filed the next day by the Department of Justice in federal court. The Humane Society of the United States assisted in the seizures.”
The actions against Envigo appear to have emboldened British protesters at “Camp Beagle,” established in July 2021 outside the gates of Marshall BioResources Acres, a breeding kennel in Wyton, Cambridgeshire.
Reported Debbie Davies on June 20, 2022 for Hunts Post, serving Huntingdon and St. Neots in Cambridgeshire, U.K., “There has been a second day of action at Marshall BioResources Acres in Wyton. Supporters from the Animal Freedom Movement say they have freed five beagles from the MBR Acres dog breeding facility.
“The Animal Freedom Movement first took action against MBR Acres,” Davies wrote, “by organizing in a mass trespass. It is demanding that MBR shut down the facility and rehome the dogs. They also called on the British Government to commit to phasing out all animal testing and sale of animal-tested products by 2025.”
Much as “random source” dogs and cats suspected of being stolen pets focused anti-vivisection activism for nearly 30 years, until the 1990 Pet Theft Act amendments to the federal Animal Welfare Act took effect in 1992, beagle use and misuse has taken the spotlight in 2022.
Attention to beagle suffering in biomedical research has been a long time coming.
Why, for example, did cartoonist Ted Key draw Mr. Peabody, the mad scientist beagle star of television and film for more than three generations, as a Harvard-educated beagle with a bow-tie?
Rival to Snoopy
Key (1912-2008) might merely have meant to one-up Snoopy, star of the “Peanuts” comic strip and television specials created by his rival Charles M. Schulz.
Snoopy, to the frequent consternation of Charlie Brown, his boy, “flew” his doghouse in World War I aerial combat against German ace Manfred von Richthofen, the “Bloody Red Baron” who shot down eighty French, British, and American pilots, but is best remembered today as a brand of pizza.
Mr. Peabody traveled in time with his boy, Sherman, visiting more than 90 historical figures and events, considerably rewriting history along the way.
Beagles & science
Whether Ted Key meant it or not, though, there was, and remains, a subtle reference in Mr. Peabody’s status as a scientist to the reality that even then beagles and science were associated to an extent that beagles in general and either flying, World War I, or pizzas never could be.
Even in 1959, when Mr. Peabody debuted, beagles were by far the dogs most often used in laboratories, and the public knew it from countless photos accompanying “golly gee” articles about medical advances.
Initially beagles and science became associated as just a matter of availability. Beagles, then as now, were among the most popular dog breeds, and were the small dog breed most abundant in animal shelters.
Hunting beagles went AWOL
This was chiefly because each fall thousands of beagles used by hunters went astray and were abandoned in the field to be collected later by exasperated farmers who passed them along to “bunchers” who sold dogs to laboratories.
Animal shelters were a secondary source of beagles for research use.
More than 90% of the dogs and cats arriving at U.S. animal shelters during Mr. Peabody’s first run of screen industry popularity were decompressed or gassed within a few days, from lack of adoptive homes, and lack of adoption promotion, too.
Beagles arriving at shelters, however, typically met a different fate.
“Pound seizure” laws requiring shelters receiving public funds to surrender dogs to laboratories on demand channeled tens of thousands of beagles per year into laboratories, leading to iconic images––even cartoons––of beagles made to inhale tobacco smoke.
Being forced to inhale tobacco smoke, bad as it was for the beagles, may have been among the least invasive of the many experiments to which beagles were subjected––and still are.
The 1966 introduction of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act and the subsequent repeal of “pound seizure” laws led to a steep reduction in laboratory use of so-called “random source” dogs and cats.
Only 946 “random source” dogs and 230 “random source” cats were used in 2012, the last year before the National Institutes of Health quit funding experiments using ‘random source” animals, with a one-year phase-out for cat experiments and a two-year phase-out for work using “random source” dogs..
Purpose-breeding replaced “random source”
But the reduction in “random source” dog use did not actually help beagles much. Beagles bred to hunt or to be pets vanished from laboratories, only to be replaced by beagles bred specifically by laboratory suppliers.
U.S. data on dogs used for biomedical research is not breed-specific. Recent British data, however, indicates that 98% of the dogs used for biomedical research in the United Kingdom are beagles. There is no reason to suspect that the situation differs much in the U.S., though former racing greyhounds as well as beagles are advertised for sale by laboratory animal supply companies.
Beagles have become the dogs of choice for laboratory use because they are small and easily handled, docile, and if bred by laboratory suppliers, are by now of long established genetic heritage, with few if any congenital surprises likely to interfere with experimental results.
The Envigo case hints, however, that the era of experimentation on beagles may end sooner than re-runs and remakes of Mr. Peabody episodes vanish from the air waves.