Lady Freethinker has obtained shocking footage from inside Blue Ridge Kennel, a research facility in Wetumpka, Alabama, that’s running dog food palatability trials.
The facility has a long-standing history of serious violations — with federal inspectors documenting 20 violations this year alone and 79 violations since 2014.
Blue Ridge Kennel has not responded to media inquiries, despite multiple outreach attempts.
In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an administrative complaint — a first step in taking possible enforcement action — after inspectors noted numerous dogs with severe dental disease, open wounds, and malnourishment. We’ve previously reported about ongoing violations, including dogs with infected bite wounds, untreated masses, worms, pressure sores, dark debris in their ears, and dogs so thin their ribs are visible.
But the footage from inside the facility, obtained via a public records request, shines a seriously needed light on the USDA and its operations.
In one video, a skeletally thin brown dog looks at inspectors from behind the chain link fencing of his kennel. The USDA report from the same date notes six malnourished dogs as a single “direct” violation (meaning observed at the time of the inspection) — with inspectors classifying a 5-year-old Labrador as “thin”; a 6-year-old Rottweiler, an 11-year-old Weimaraner, and a 1-year-old red bone hound as “very thin”; and a 10-year-old Visla dog named Pongo as “emaciated.”
Inspectors wrote that Pongo had gone from 64 pounds in September 2021 to 47 pounds by September 2022 — a 27 percent weight loss.
“When viewed from the back and side, the ribs, back bone and hip bones were visible,” the inspector wrote. “In addition, an abdominal tuck and prominent waist were observed. Bones of the front and back legs are visible, along with bones of the head.”
This was just one of the 75 violations.
The footage obtained also shows dogs with untreated medical issues and dogs who had no access to water for an indeterminate amount of time lapping at their buckets for longer than 30 seconds, according to the inspector timing them.
In the video, a person inside the facility tells the inspector the dogs were put outside so staff could clean. When the inspector asks the person to estimate the amount of time the dogs had gone without water, the person claims “5 to 10 to 15 minutes.”
“This is every day,” the person says in the video. “I know they might be drinking a lot of water but if I don’t keep them out there for a time, there’s going to be so much shit here … they have to go out.”
Since the USDA’s official warning and administrative complaint, and since Lady Freethinker’s reporting and letter to officials, Blue Ridge Kennel has only gone on to keep operating and keep violating.
The facility’s most recent inspection report, from July 2023 when 80 dogs were on site, details four new violations — including four dogs who failed to receive needed follow-up vet care or medications, enclosures in need of repair, and dogs being fed in 20 percent of enclosures with food thrown directly onto the ground, rather than in food receptacles that could prevent the food from getting contaminated with feces and pests, according to the inspector.
If you haven’t already, please sign our petition asking for the USDA to revoke this violative facility’s research license.
Please also consider 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:
- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: via [email protected]
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Kevin Shea: via [email protected]