Envigo Hit with Record $35.5M Fine for Beagle Mistreatment

(IntegrityTimes.com) – Research animal breeder Envigo has pleaded guilty to environmental and animal welfare offenses, following a two-year investigation carried out by the U.S. Justice Department into its abuse of thousands of beagles.

Envigo agreed to pay fines amounting to $22 million in the federal court in Virginia’s western district. The company also agreed to pay an extra $13.5 million towards environmental and animal welfare initiatives, law enforcement expenses and improvement of its facilities. The fine is the largest ever imposed by the justice department relating to an animal welfare case.

Pressure has mounted both sides of the Atlantic from animal rights activists calling on governments to clamp down on inhumane experiments carried out on beagles bred for the purpose. In February 2024, PETA stood outside parliament in Westminster, UK, to protest similarly cruel experiments carried out at Cambridge University. The tests on beagles, rabbits and other animals involved force-feeding them chemicals, invasive procedures and death.

Animal shelters across the U.S. worked to find new owners for the 4,000 dogs rescued from the Envigo facility in 2022. Responding to concerns about animal welfare, inspectors discovered that the facility was killing some dogs instead of providing basic veterinary care for conditions that were easily treatable. Food given to the animals contained feces, maggots and mold, and some nursing mothers were not given any food. Unsanitary living conditions and euthanasia of animals without anesthetic were also reported.

Celebrities adopted some of the rescued beagles, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who took in a 7-year-old dog named Momma Mia. Envigo, which is a subsidiary of Inotiv, pleaded guilty to one felony count of a Clean Water Act violation. The company refused to repair equipment used to treat wastewater, which resulted in animal feces being dumped in a nearby creek. Envigo also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of an Animal Welfare Act violation. Inotiv halted the facility’s operations in Cumberland County in 2022 following a separate civil lawsuit.

The company was taken over by Inotiv in 2021, and is one of the country’s leading suppliers of animals for medical testing. Clients include the federal government, leading pharmaceutical firms and universities. Envigo could lose its status as a federal contractor as a result of the Clean Water Act violation.

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