USDA Fails Dogs Yet Again, Allowing Breeders to Break the Law
October 6, 2022: In response to this enforcement disaster, 49 members of Congress, in two separate letters, expressed concern about the USDA’s failure to enforce the Animal Welfare Act. In one letter [PDF], members of Congress requested answers from the USDA about their decision to renew Envigo’s license despite evidence of flagrant violations of the law, while the other letter [PDF] urged the USDA to reform its enforcement program to address and prevent ongoing abuse of animals.
July 10, 2022: The Department of Justice and Envigo reached a settlement on July 15, 2022. As expected, Envigo can no longer operate at the Cumberland, Virginia, facility, and all dogs remaining at the location will be transferred to animal shelters.
Unfortunately, Envigo will not be subject to any further civil action, they will pay no fines and the settlement does not prevent Envigo from continuing to operate other locations. In fact, the USDA just renewed Envigo’s license for another year.
July 8, 2022: In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a federal court to intervene and protect hundreds of dogs who were being held in a commercial breeding facility in Iowa. More than 500 dogs were later removed from the facility run by USDA-licensee Daniel Gingerich.
Less than a year later, the DOJ was in court again to stop another business [PDF], Envigo, from continuing to harm over 4,000 Beagles at its Cumberland, Virginia, location, where dogs were bred and sold for research.
In both cases, the DOJ presented evidence of horrific treatment that centered on extensive documentation and photography: dead dogs, starving dogs, dogs in dangerous conditions, and dogs in need of veterinary care. These documents and photographs weren’t the result of undercover or law enforcement efforts. Shockingly, they were collected during “routine inspections” conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
These photos were taken by USDA inspectors at Envigo's Cumberland, Virginia, location and released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Although Gingerich was breeding dogs to sell to pet stores, and Envigo was breeding dogs for research, both activities are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. Any wholesale breeders who supply animals to pet stores, brokers, or research facilities are required to be licensed with the USDA, and the USDA is responsible for inspecting these licensees to ensure they are meeting the minimum standards of humane animal care and treatment. This important duty under the nation’s premier welfare law has been entrusted to the USDA, and their careful oversight is critical to upholding this law. The USDA’s repeated failures to take this seriously puts hundreds of thousands of animals at risk of serious harm and death.
Facing legal action in the DOJ case, Envigo has publicly committed to closing down the Cumberland facility, and a settlement was reached for the surrender of Envigo’s “inventory” of dogs. Yet Envigo is still licensed by the USDA. Envigo, along with its parent company, Inotiv, house tens of thousands of other animals in multiple locations across the country. Federal and state lawmakers have directly demanded that the USDA suspend Envigo’s license, but that has not happened.
We commend the DOJ for not standing by and watching animals suffer as businesses profit, but this cruelty never should have been allowed to happen in the first place. The point of inspections and routine oversight is to prevent the harms that many thousands of animals have now suffered. The DOJ’s intervention in these cases shows just how broken the system is. There is no justifiable reason why the documented observations of horrible cruelty were not enough for the USDA to take action against Gingerich, Envigo, or any of the hundreds of other USDA-licensees who violate the law.
It’s past time the USDA upholds its responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would protect animals in USDA-licensed facilities, including those in puppy mills and bred for research operations. Goldie’s Act will require the USDA to conduct more frequent and more meaningful inspections of facilities, intervene when animals are suffering, impose deterring monetary penalties for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and share information of cruelty violations with local authorities.