Historic $35M fine announced against company that surrendered 4,000 beagles

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(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency announced the largest ever fine under the Animal Welfare Act on Monday, totaling more than $35 million in criminal fines, donations and costs to upgrade their operations to be paid by a company that surrendered 4,000 beagles from a dog breeding facility in Virginia in 2022.

In 2022, the DOJ secured the surrender of more than 4,000 dogs from a facility that bred and sold animals for research, saying the operators failed to meet minimum standards for humane treatment of the animals.

“Envigo compounded the heartbreaking nature of its animal welfare crimes by committing egregious Clean Water Act violations that undermined public health and the wellbeing of the animals in their care,” David M. Uhlmann, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.

“Everyone victimized in this precedent-setting animal welfare case deserved better: the workers, the beagles, the environment and the community,” he said. “Envigo deserves every dollar of its record fine.”

The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law that sets minimum standards of care for animals in captivity, being used for research or educational settings, or being sold to the public. The dog breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, which is now closed, was cited for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to the animals in its facility as well as failing to meet requirements for adequate housing, food, and sanitation.

Many of the dogs rescued from the breeding facility in 2022 were adopted into new homes.

The parent company, Inotiv Inc, will now pay $35 million and be subject to a compliance monitor and increased standards for their operations, according to an EPA press release. One of the companies responsible for the facility, Envigo Global Services, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act for failing to operate wastewater treatment at the dog breeding facility and exposing dogs and people working in the facility to water that was contaminated with fecal matter and was released into a local waterway.

Another company, Envigo RMS, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide veterinary care, adequate staffing and safe living conditions for the animals in the facility.

Inotiv Inc. is a company that provides services to support “nonclinical and analytical drug discovery and development services,” including animal breeding, according to its website. In a statement on its website, the company said the agreement announced Monday will resolve the investigation into the facility.

“Inotiv’s top priority has always been — and remains — practicing appropriate standards of animal welfare for our animals, while supporting the scientific objectives of the studies conducted. We strive to maintain facilities that are compliant with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations and consistent with our core value to always do the right thing. That is why we worked to reach this agreement, and why we have agreed to go above and beyond those legal requirements,” the company said in the statement.

About $22 million of the payment is a criminal fine, about $3 million will be given to the Humane Society of the United States and Virginia Animal Fighting Taskforce, $3.5 million will be donated to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for ecosystem restoration and another $7 million will be used to update their facilities to higher standards than required under the Animal Welfare Act.

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