In significant progress for cats and dogs used in cruel animal tests, a Virginia bill that could help cripple breeding facilities with violations of federal animal welfare law is now on its way to the governor.
The Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed SB 87, which would prohibit research facilities cited by federal inspectors for a single, serious animal welfare violation from selling cats and dogs acquired or born within a two-year window of that violation — including for experiments. The law also would apply to facilities cited for three lesser violations or that refuse access to inspectors twice consecutively.
The bill now heads to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk and, if signed, would go into effect in July 2023.
The bipartisan legislation is a direct response to the disturbing discoveries made by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors at a commercial beagle-breeding facility in Cumberland. The facility is owned by Indianapolis-based biotech company Envigo, which breeds thousands of animals for cruel animal tests every year.
Between July and October 2021, federal inspectors from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) cited this one facility for more than 30 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Their reports documented dogs suffering from medical ailments, including untreated eye conditions, lesions, swollen paws, patchy hair loss, and dental disease so severe that the animals required immediate medical intervention, according to the inspection reports.
Inspectors also noted more than 300 puppies had died from “unknown causes” and that facility staff had not made any documented efforts to determine the causes of those deaths, a necessary step for implementing changes “to prevent similar deaths of other puppies in the future,” according to the inspection reports.
Virginia lawmakers were reportedly so disgusted by the situation at the Cumberland facility that they’ve proposed 10 bipartisan bills aimed at adding transparency, accountability, and oversight at Envigo, according to ABC 8News.
The legislation includes Senate Bill 535, which would create the position of an animal welfare oversight officer to inspect operations at Envigo, and Senate Bill 604, which would close a loophole that allows Envigo to escape state animal cruelty charges.
The Virginia legislation provides a road map to states for shutting down their “cruelest operators,” Russ Mead, an animal law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, told Science.
“It should be the USDA, not the state of Virginia, shutting down breeders with AWA violations,” Mead said. “But the dogs won’t care who ends the nightmare.”
The USDA has opened an investigation into Envigo’s Cumberland facility, according to news reports.
If you haven’t already, please sign our petition urging the USDA to revoke Envigo’s license at this facility with numerous, documented issues of violations and impose the maximum fines possible.