A dog food research facility cited by federal inspectors for dogs with rotting teeth and gaping wounds now faces another complaint.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees welfare at the facility, is allowing Blue Ridge Kennels to stay open — despite 19 new violations since the last time we reported on the facility in October 2022.
We sent our petition, signed by more than 41,000 people, to the USDA after releasing a report and pictures of the suffering animals, obtained by the federal agency through a public records request. We thank everyone who signed.
In February, the USDA issued an administrative complaint — an important step that could lead to penalties, fines, or even a shutdown. The complaint cited numerous violations from Aug. 31, 2021 through Dec. 14, 2022, including inadequately qualified personnel, incomplete records, enclosures in need of repair, and numerous dogs in need of veterinary care — notably dogs with severe tartar buildup and reddened gums, a “very thin” dog suffering from worms, a yellow Labrador with pressure sores, and a black Lab with thickened ears.
The facility also hadn’t included descriptions in their research protocol for how they planned to minimize pain or discomfort to animals in their experiments or that their findings wouldn’t duplicate previous studies, according to the complaint.
In addition to the documented violations, federal inspectors noted that the facility “did not have enough employees to carry out the level of husbandry practices and care required to ensure the dogs’ well-being.”
But rather than reform, Blue Ridge Kennels — which has not responded to media inquiries from Lady Freethinker to date — has come back with eight new violations reported by federal inspectors.
At an inspection on April 12, inspectors noted the “repeat” issue of dogs going without veterinary care — including an 11-year-old male Labrador named Showboat, a 12-year-old golden retriever named Thor, and a 9-year-old Labrador named Sunny who had such severe dental disease that parts of their teeth had chipped and broken off.
Numerous dogs with documented low thyroid blood test levels also hadn’t been given proper follow up care, according to inspection reports.
Inspectors also noted that the research facility’s animal care use committee consisted of all new members who had received no training in how to ensure animals are being treated humanely, that the facility had no adequate program of veterinary care, and several outdoor exercise pens were in need of repair.
But those weren’t the facility’s only new violations this year. Inspectors also noted severe dental disease, untreated masses and lumps, limping dogs, and an excessively thin Beagle who had lost more than 14 percent of his body weight in a single month during inspections in January and February.
Multiple dogs also hadn’t been given prescribed medications and antibiotics, dogs hadn’t had mandated access to water, and a dog who reportedly “wasn’t doing well” was killed despite his official records not showing any descriptions of his decline.
Also, alarmingly, the facility was cited for obtaining “at least three dogs under false pretenses” and also acquiring several dogs from unlicensed individuals without the required certification to show that the dogs had been obtained from legal sources.
The inspector noted that certification was necessary to ensure that “random source dogs” — as well as people’s stolen or lost pets — weren’t being used in research.
This facility — which has had 75 violations, including critical ones, since 2015, seemingly without fines or any accountability — needs to be shut down.
We’re sending a letter to the USDA , to the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, and also to the Department of Justice, telling them it’s time to stop the suffering for these defenseless dogs.
Please sign our petition if you haven’t already done so, and share the petition with your friends and family.
Please also consider calling or sending a respectful message to the USDA, telling them you’d like to see decisive action in the form of penalties, fines, and for this facility to shut down, given the chronic history of serious violations. The USDA can be reached by email at [email protected].
Editorial Note: Lady Freethinker has a public records request out for photographs of the new violations. We’re including copies of the public records photos we received for recent violations in this story to remind readers of the scope of the ongoing issues at this facility.