It Happened Again: DOJ Forced to Take Action Against Another Commercial Breeder

October 9, 2023

Update January 3, 2024: After both the DOJ and the state of Virginia took action against the Mikirtichevs, the USDA finally revoked their license permanently in late December and fined them $25,000 for their atrocious violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Update October 9, 2023: The Virginia Attorney General's Office seized 110 cats and kittens from the Mikirtichev facility with the assistance of Chesterfield County Animal Services and the Humane Society of the United States. 

For the second time in just over a year, the U.S. Department of Justice has been forced to step in because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continued to allow cruel breeders at a Virginia facility to break the law repeatedly. 

Since 2017, Elena Mikirticheva and Andrey Mikirtichev have been USDA-licensed commercial dog and cat breeders in North Chesterfield, Virginia—breeding hundreds of animals and selling them for thousands of dollars. Throughout this time, USDA inspectors continually documented horrific examples of animal cruelty at this breeding facility. Abuse included failure to provide veterinary care, denying animals access to adequate food and water, and housing animals in unclean and unsafe enclosures. 

Some examples include:

cat with inflamed eye

In July 2021, USDA inspectors found an orange cat with an eye so inflamed he was unable to fully open it. The cat was scheduled for surgery, but the Mikirtichevs failed to bring him to the appointment, and he was not provided treatment. 

dog with wound on neck

In March 2023, a French Bulldog named Senya was observed with a large wound on his neck. Despite the injury occurring four weeks prior, he had not been seen by a veterinarian. 

Kitten with injured eye

In April 2023, the USDA documented a black-and-white kitten named Gerschwind with upper respiratory and eye infections. The kitten’s eyes were inflamed and bright pink, and the licensee admitted that the condition had been worsening. Again, no veterinarian was notified.

cat with malformed chest

In July 2023, USDA inspectors observed a brown tabby kitten who had been born with a malformed chest that was compressed inward. The licensees did not notify their veterinarian and instead attempted to splint the chest cavity themselves with a toilet paper tube. When USDA inspectors returned two weeks later, they found the kitten extremely thin and exhibiting respiratory distress. He died that evening.

Despite witnessing these awful conditions and flagrant violations of the law for years, the USDA—the agency responsible for ensuring licensees meet the minimum standards of care outlined in the Animal Welfare Act—waited until August 25 to temporarily suspend the Mikirtichevs’ license and file an Administrative Complaint. On August 30, the Department of Justice also stepped in seeking injunctive relief [PDF]. The Mikirtichevs are currently restricted from breeding or selling any animals. It is unclear at this time if they will face further penalty. 

This case bears striking similarity to another Virginia commercial breeder. In that case, too, the USDA was aware that countless dogs were suffering and dying, but the agency did not take any action, and the Department of Justice had to step in.  

The USDA continues to fail to do its job. The system is broken, and animals in federally licensed facilities are not getting the protections they deserve. Join us in the fight for change. Use our simple online form to urge your member of Congress to support Goldie’s Act, a federal bill that would force the USDA to uphold the law and protect animals in federally licensed facilities.