Home Virginia dog breeding facility receives $35M fine related to abuse of 4,000 beagles

Virginia dog breeding facility receives $35M fine related to abuse of 4,000 beagles

envigo beagles in cages
Image courtesy U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western District of Virginia

A Cumberland County dog breeding facility that was in the news in 2022 related to the surrender of more than 4,000 beagles reached a resolution today resulting in a record fine related to violations of the Animal Welfare and Clean Water Acts.

Envigo RMS LLC pleaded guilty to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act, and Envigo Global Services Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act.

As part of the resolution, Inotiv — of which Envigo RMS and Envigo Global Services are subsidiaries — will guarantee more than $35 million in payments. The company will also be subject to increased animal care standards and be subject to a compliance monitor.

This resolution marks the largest ever fine in an Animal Welfare Act case.

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) demanded federal action in 2022 after more than 70 animal welfare violations at the Cumberland facility. The federal government stepped in seizing 446 beagles in acute distress and facilitating the surrender of nearly 4,000 dogs to the Humane Society of the United States, which worked to place these dogs into homes.

“Today’s settlement represents an enormous victory for animal welfare, as the perpetrators of horrific abuse against innocent dogs will pay a historic settlement for their negligence,” said the senators in a statement. “After our advocacy for these animals, we’ve been deeply heartened to hear stories of their adoption into loving, safe homes, and this settlement takes another step critical towards justice. We’re glad to see Envigo held accountable for its crimes, and we’ll keep pushing to root out animal abuse across Virginia.”

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7.

“Our nation’s animal welfare and clean water laws exist to prevent suffering and harm,” said Todd Kim, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division. “That’s why we secured the transfer of thousands of beagles from Envigo’s Cumberland facility into adoption, and that’s why today’s plea agreement is so significant. The plea agreement includes the largest ever fine in an animal welfare case as well as heightened standards of care for facilities across the country.”

Envigo promoted a business culture that prioritized profit and convenience over following the law, said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh for the Western District of Virginia.

“The historic monetary penalties and significant compliance measures as part of these guilty pleas send a clear message: every company, in every industry, must have compliance and corporate responsibility as a critical part of their business model,” said Kavanaugh.

Envigo compounded its animal welfare crimes by committing Clean Water Act violations that undermined public health and the wellbeing of the animals in their care, said David M. Uhlmann, assistant administrator of Environmental Protection Agency’s office of enforcement and compliance assurance.

“Everyone victimized in this precedent-setting animal welfare case deserved better: the workers, the beagles, the environment and the community,” said Uhlmann.

“Envigo deserves every dollar of its record fine,” Uhlmann said.

According to court documents, Envigo RMS conspired to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide, among other things, adequate veterinary care, adequate staffing and safe living conditions for dogs housed at the Cumberland County facility.

In addition, Envigo Global Services conspired to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act by failing to properly operate and maintain the wastewater treatment plant at the Cumberland County facility, which led to massive unlawful discharges of insufficiently treated wastewater into a local waterway and also impacted the health and well-being of the dogs at the facility.

Terms of the plea agreement

  • The entities will serve from three to five years of probation and pay a total criminal fine of $22 million — that is $11 million for each violation.
  • The entities will pay approximately $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force for direct assistance provided to the investigation.
  • The entities will pay approximately $1.9 million to the Humane Society of the United States for direct assistance provided to the investigation
  • $3.5 million will be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to benefit and restore the environment and ecosystems in Cumberland County, at least $500,000 of which will be spent on purchasing riparian wetland or riparian land located in or near Cumberland
  • The entities will spend at least $7 million to improve their facilities and personnel beyond the standards imposed by the Animal Welfare Act
  • The entities will pay all costs associated with a compliance monitor, which will oversee the entities’ compliance with these enhanced animal welfare standards, the Animal Welfare Act, the Clean Water Act, a nationwide compliance plan and additional terms of the agreements and probation

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.