4,000 beagles to be rescued from Virginia breeding facility after animal welfare violations alleged

Four thousand beagles from a breeding facility in Virginia accused of animal welfare violations will be transferred to shelters nationwide for adoption in the coming months, under a plan approved by a federal judge last week.

According to court records, the plan came after the federal government filed a civil enforcement case in May against Envigo RMS, which owns and operates the Cumberland, Virginia, facility that breeds beagles for medical research.

Federal officials accused Envigo of a chain of animal welfare violations at the facility – including dogs receiving insufficient food, inadequate medical care, housing in filthy conditions and some being euthanized without anesthesia. And an inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, between January and July of last year, over 300 puppy deaths were attributed to "unknown causes" – with the facility not taking any additional steps to investigate the deaths or prevent similar losses in the future.

After the government filed its case against Envigo, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon issued a restraining order that imposed restrictions on the facility. Inotiv Inc., Envigo's parent company, announced it would "implement an orderly closure plan" for the facility in a June statement.

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On Friday, following the judge's approval, the government and Envigo jointly filed a plan for the Human Society of the United States to remove "all" of the facility's beagles. The HSUS will then transport the dogs to shelters across the country, where it is hoped they can find new homes.

The removal process is expected to take about 60 days. Envigo will cover a monetary fee to help shelters with the costs of preparing each beagle for adoption, according to court documents.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Norfolk-based animal rights group that also investigated the facility, applauded the transfer plan.

“Envigo’s surviving victims will soon be given the opportunity to have what every dog deserves – the freedom to enjoy life, love, and respect for their individuality as members of a family home," PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said in a statement.

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U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark R. Warner, D-Va., who called on action from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in March to address Envigo's animal welfare violations, also celebrated last week's move.

“After months of advocacy, we’re heartened to know that nearly 4,000 Envigo dogs will be spared a lifetime of suffering and will instead head to loving homes," Kaine and Warner said in a joint-statement. "We’re also pleased to know that Inotiv – Envigo’s parent company – will shutter its Cumberland facility and that no more dogs will be subject to the appalling conditions and inexcusable distress endured by so many dogs and puppies at the facility. We will continue working in the Senate to prevent the mistreatment of innocent animals across Virginia and the nation."

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Hundreds have already been removed from the Cumberland facility. As of June 1, Envigo had relinquished 446 beagles determined to be in “acute distress,” according to court documents.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 4,000 beagles to be rescued from Virginia facility, adoption transfer