Breeder Ordered to Pay $35 Million for Mistreating Beagles

A medical research company that bred dogs agreed on Monday to pay $35 million as part of a plea agreement for the mistreatment of more than 4,000 beagles that had to be rescued from its breeding facility in 2022 in Virginia, federal prosecutors said. The fine was the largest amount in an animal welfare case.

As part of the deal, Inotiv, which controls Envigo RMS LLC and Envigo Global Services, must continue to not breed dogs and will be on probation for up to five years, according to prosecutors and the company.

Envigo RMS LLC pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Va., on Monday to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act, and Envigo Global Services pleaded guilty to a felony of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act.

A formal sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Inotiv ceased operations at its facility in Cumberland County, Va., in September 2022 to resolve a separate civil lawsuit, according to the company. The federal government filed the suit against Envigo in May 2022, claiming that it had failed to humanely care for thousands of beagles at the facility. A multiday search of the facility that month found that more than 100 dogs and puppies were in “acute distress.” Others were dehydrated, underfed, injured or living in poor conditions, including one building that did not have air conditioning.

Prosecutors said that Envigo Global Services also did not properly run its wastewater treatment plan at the Cumberland facility, which led to “massive” illegal discharges that entered the local waterway.

Inotiv will pay $11 million for each of the two violations to which it pleaded guilty. It will also pay about $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, $1.9 million to the Humane Society of the United States, and $3.5 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, prosecutors said. The company’s entities must also pay spend at least $7 million to improve their facilities.

Christopher R. Kavanaugh, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said in a statement on Monday that “Envigo promoted a business culture that prioritized profit and convenience over following the law.”

“This callous approach led to dire consequences: the inhumane treatment of animals and the contamination of our waterway,” he said.

At a news conference on Monday, Mr. Kavanaugh said that from 2019 to May 2022, Envigo sold more than 15,000 beagles from the Cumberland facility, generating $16 million in revenue. The company has about 20 locations across North America and Europe, he said.

In a statement of contrition on Monday, Inotiv said that “we fell short of our standards for animal and environmental welfare and apologize to the public for the harm caused by our conduct.”

“In resolving this matter, we renew our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of animal care, as well as to the communities and environments in which we operate,” the company said.

Inspections at the Cumberland facility dating back to July 2021 documented a long history of mistreatment to the beagles, where they often lived surrounded by feces and food waste, according to court records. More than 300 dogs had died at the facility of “unknown causes” over the years, court records show.

Many of the animals that Inotiv had in its breeding operation were going to be used for research and testing. After news spread of the poor conditions the dogs were living in and calls from lawmakers, a federal judge approved a plan in July 2022 to secure the dogs.

More than 4,000 beagles were rescued from the Cumberland facility in summer 2022. That’s when dozens of volunteers and workers at animal shelters across the country mobilized to care for them and nurse them back to health before they could be adopted by families across the country.

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