Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the statement below, celebrating a joint plan between the Department of Justice and Envigo RMS LLC. to facilitate the surrender of nearly four thousand dogs from an Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., which has been repeatedly cited for egregious animal welfare violations. Under the agreement, ownership and physical custody of the dogs will be transferred to the Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS), which will work to place these dogs into homes. This transfer is the result of a warrant and subsequent lawsuit filed by federal authorities after Sens. Warner and Kaine shed light on the issue and demanded federal action. After a preliminary injunction against the facility was issued in the Western District of Virginia, Envigo and its parent company agreed to close the facility permanently, meaning that soon no more dogs will be made to suffer in the horrific conditions at the Cumberland, Virginia site.

“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. 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,” said the senators.

In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine expressed horror and demanded immediate and aggressive action by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) following more than 70 animal welfare violations at the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland. After these calls for action, the federal government stepped in, seizing 446 beagles in acute distress and placing a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the breeding, sale, or otherwise dealing of beagles at the Cumberland facility.

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country, earning a 100% on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Scorecard for 2021. In March, Sen. Warner secured the passage of new language requiring the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This program came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been consistent cosponsors of the Puppy Protection Act, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to include additional care and safety standards for dog breeders like Envigo. Under the bill, breeders would be required to house dogs in appropriately sized enclosures with solid ground and keep them on a regular diet and exercise routine. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine signed a law that imposed stricter legal penalties for dogfighting offenses.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the statement below, celebrating the rescue of hundreds of dogs in acute distress from the Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia. According to a joint motion filed by Envigo and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Envigo has relinquished 446 beagles following their seizure by federal agents. The joint motion also extends the Temporary Restraining Order against Envigo for 14 days to prevent the breeding, sale, or otherwise dealing of beagles at the Cumberland facility until Envigo demonstrates compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

“We’re thrilled to report that nearly 450 innocent dogs are finally free from abuse and neglect after being seized by federal officials and surrendered by Envigo. We’ve spent months pressing the Department of Agriculture to take action against Envigo following its persistent and egregious abuses of animal welfare laws, and are glad to see enforcement efforts come to fruition. We will continue to follow this case closely and do everything in our power to prevent Envigo from causing further harm to innocent animals.”

In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine expressed horror and demanded immediate and aggressive action by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) following more than 70 animal welfare violations at the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland. In a letter to APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea, the Senators urged APHIS to immediately suspend Envigo’s Cumberland facility license, condemning “persistent and egregious” abuses that led to distress, injury, and death in dogs and puppies.

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country, earning a 100% on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Scorecard for 2021. In March, Sen. Warner secured the passage of new language requiring the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This program came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been consistent cosponsors of the Puppy Protection Act, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to include additional care and safety standards for dog breeders like Envigo. Under the bill, breeders would be required to house dogs in appropriately sized enclosures with solid ground and keep them on a regular diet and exercise routine. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine signed a law that imposed stricter legal penalties for dogfighting offenses.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed horror and demanded immediate and aggressive action by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) following more than 70 animal welfare violations at an Envigo breeding and research facility based in Cumberland, Virginia. In a letter to APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea, the Senators urged APHIS to immediately suspend Envigo’s Cumberland facility license, condemning “persistent and egregious” abuses that led to distress, injury, and death in dogs and puppies.

Today’s letter comes just days after the release of two new inspections from November 2021 and March 2022 that detailed how the facility performed unnecessarily painful medical procedures on dogs and puppies – including euthanasia without a sedative – in direct contradiction to the recommendation of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Medical records indicate that 196 dogs were euthanized and many were not provided any anesthetic.

“It is clear to us that Envigo has been derelict in its duty to provide for the humane care of its dogs, and is unable to abide by the basic standards set forth by the Animal Welfare Act,” wrote Sens. Warner and Kaine. “The role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in ensuring humane treatment of animals extends beyond routine and focused inspections. Congress has provided USDA with broad authority to apply penalties to violators of the Animal Welfare Act. To our knowledge, APHIS has not yet exercised such authority despite Envigo’s repeated failures in providing adequate care to the 5,000 dogs entrusted to its care.”

They continued, “APHIS could suspend Envigo’s license for 21 days, and upon notice and opportunity for hearing, move to revoke the facility’s license outright. Additionally, APHIS could initiate formal administrative action by the USDA Office of General Counsel to seek civil penalties. APHIS is authorized in statute to seek civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation of the AWA, meaning that it could seek up to $730,000 in penalties from Envigo for its repeated noncompliance.  In the face of repeated, serious violations by the facility, it is our strongly-held belief that USDA must pursue aggressive enforcement actions.”

Over the course of nine months, four inspections – including a July inspection, and subsequent October, November, and March inspections – revealed 73 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the Envigo Cumberland facilities. Specifically, these inspections found that puppies and dogs were held in shelters with temperatures exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than five hours, and that research conducted at the facility caused distress to nursing mothers and their puppies after food was intentionally withheld for 48 hours. The inspections also found that housing violations led to the injury of dozens of dogs, including 71 who were injured when a body part was pulled through the wall of the kennel by a dog in an adjacent kennel, and 50 who were injured or killed due to incompatible groupings.

In their letter, the Senators also raised concern with USDA delays in publishing the horrific findings of these inspections.

They wrote, “While APHIS inspection reports have proven an invaluable resource in uncovering the breadth and depth of mistreatment occurring at the Envigo facilities, we are concerned with delays in publishing such reports. Advocates, legislators, and the public have waited months after inspections to review inspection report findings. The July report was not publicly released until 118 days after the inspection, while the October and November inspection reports took 94 and 128 days, respectively, to be published. We appreciate the complexity of these reports and the immense care that animal care specialists take in preparing them. We also understand that Envigo made it consistent practice to appeal each report in its 21-day window from initial receipt. Even still, it strikes us as unacceptable that the public and elected officials were not privy to the horrific violations of the AWA until months after the inspections while animals suffered in the interim.”

Additionally, the Senators posed a series of questions for APHIS, requesting an answer by April 20. Among other questions, they inquired whether APHIS plans to take any enforcement actions against Envigo, and whether inspectors will return to the facility for a fifth time to monitor progress on corrective actions.  

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country, earning a 100% on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Scorecard for 2021. Most recently, Sen. Warner secured the passage of new language requiring the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This program came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been  consistent cosponsors of the Puppy Protection Act, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to include additional care and safety standards for dog breeders like Envigo. Under the bill, breeders would be required to house dogs in appropriately sized enclosures with solid ground and keep them on a regular diet and exercise routine. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine signed a law that imposed stricter legal penalties for dogfighting offenses.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Administrator Shea:

We write to urge the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to pursue aggressive enforcement actions against Envigo RMS LLC and Envigo Global Services Inc.’s (hereafter, Envigo) operations in Cumberland, Virginia. Over the course of the last nine months, APHIS inspectors visited Envigo’s Cumberland facilities four times and cited the company’s licensed breeding and research facilities for 73 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 35 of which were classified as ‘Direct’ or ‘Critical.’ APHIS has an obligation under the AWA to ensure the “humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals” within its purview.  In light of persistent and egregious violations of the AWA, we believe that APHIS should immediately suspend the license of the Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland and initiate formal administrative proceedings through the USDA Office of General Counsel.

In recent months, we have been horrified to learn of the abuses at Envigo’s facilities in Virginia. Namely, the abuses have occurred at the dog breeding facility in Cumberland, though APHIS also documented violations of the AWA at the adjacent research facility operated by Envigo. Research conducted at the facility caused distress to nursing mothers and their puppies after food was intentionally withheld for 48 hours within the course of a study, which itself was the subject of several AWA violations. AWA violations at the breeding facility have been even worse. Perhaps most galling is the fact that from January – July 2021, over 300 puppy deaths were attributed to unknown causes, and the facility was found to have “not taken additional steps to determine the causes of death in order to prevent similar deaths” in the future. The July 2021 inspection report also detailed widespread issues with the maintenance of Envigo’s housing facilities that recurred in each of the subsequent three inspections. Housing violations included enclosures lacking solid walls which led to at least 71 dogs being injured when a body part was pulled through the wall of the kennel by a dog in an adjacent kennel, incompatible groupings that led to the death of at least two dogs and injured 48 others, holding puppies and adult dogs in shelters with temperatures exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than five hours, and insufficient cleaning and sanitation procedures which led to “a large accumulation of feces, urine, standing water, insects (both dead and alive) and uneaten food” under kennel floors. The July 2021 inspection report also highlighted that current staffing levels were insufficient to provide appropriate care, a violation that recurred in subsequent inspections.

The October 25, 2021 inspection report of Envigo’s Cumberland breeding facility found 13 more violations, seven of which were categorized as ‘Direct’ or ‘Critical,’ and eleven of which were repeat violations. It was clear then that the facility was not making progress in caring for the puppies and dogs. Violations cited in this October report included failure to identify medical conditions requiring treatment and failure to handle animals carefully which led to the death of a newborn puppy in a drain after he fell through a gap in the flooring.

APHIS’ inspection reports from its November 16, 2021 inspections led to 29 more violations of the AWA, 14 of which were classified as ‘Direct’ and 17 were repeat violations. Despite the facility being more than four months past its initial inspection which documented vast noncompliance, inspectors found continued, horrific mistreatment of animals. For example, the facility was found to have ignored the appropriate authority of the attending veterinarian and performed unnecessarily painful medical procedures, including euthanasia without a sedative, in direct contradiction to the recommendation of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Inspectors reviewed medical records that showed 196 dogs were euthanized and many were not provided any anesthetic. And just three days ago, APHIS released a fourth inspection report detailing five more repeat AWA violations of the Envigo breeding facility found on March 8, 2022. It is clear to us that Envigo has been derelict in its duty to provide for the humane care of its dogs, and is unable to abide by the basic standards set forth by the Animal Welfare Act.

While APHIS inspection reports have proven an invaluable resource in uncovering the breadth and depth of mistreatment occurring at the Envigo facilities, we are concerned with delays in publishing such reports. Advocates, legislators, and the public have waited months after inspections to review inspection report findings. The July report was not publicly released until 118 days after the inspection, while the October and November inspection reports took 94 and 128 days, respectively, to be published. We appreciate the complexity of these reports and the immense care that animal care specialists take in preparing them. We also understand that Envigo made it consistent practice to appeal each report in its 21-day window from initial receipt. Even still, it strikes us as unacceptable that the public and elected officials were not privy to the horrific violations of the AWA until months after the inspections while animals suffered in the interim. In particular, it is unclear to us why APHIS’ undertakes a second 21-day hold period after a licensee’s appeal is reviewed and the report is duly modified. In an ‘Explanatory Statement’ of the recently-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, Congress instructed APHIS to address “long and inexplicable delays in acting against blatant violations of the Animal Welfare Act.”  We share this concern and hope you will take all prudent steps to expedite the public release of AWA inspection reports moving forward.

The role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in ensuring humane treatment of animals extends beyond routine and focused inspections. Congress has provided USDA with broad authority to apply penalties to violators of the Animal Welfare Act. To our knowledge, APHIS has not yet exercised such authority despite Envigo’s repeated failures in providing adequate care to the 5,000 dogs entrusted to its care. APHIS could suspend Envigo’s license for 21 days, and upon notice and opportunity for hearing, move to revoke the facility’s license outright. Additionally, APHIS could initiate formal administrative action by the USDA Office of General Counsel to seek civil penalties. APHIS is authorized in statute to seek civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation of the AWA, meaning that it could seek up to $730,000 in penalties from Envigo for its repeated noncompliance.  In the face of repeated, serious violations by the facility, it is our strongly-held belief that USDA must pursue aggressive enforcement actions.

In light of ongoing violations of the AWA at Envigo facilities in Virginia, we respectfully request that by April 20, 2022, you provide detailed responses to the following questions:

 

1.                  Has APHIS taken any enforcement actions against the Cumberland, Virginia Envigo facilities (breeding facility: Certificate 32-A-0774, site 005 and research facility: Certificate 23-R-0187, site 002), or does it plan to do so?
2.                  What number and type of AWA violations would typically be sufficient to warrant various types of enforcement actions, including regulatory correspondence, stipulated penalties, license suspension or revocation, confiscation of animals, and formal administrative proceedings?
3.                  Over the last three years, has APHIS cited any single facility for more than violations of the AWA in a nine-month span than Envigo has received (73 violations)?
4.                  APHIS outlines in its Animal Care Inspection Guide that “inspection reports are to be finalized… within 5 business days of the date of the inspection.” Was that the case in the inspections at Envigo’s Cumberland facilities in July, October, and November 2021? 
a.                  If so, did the appeals process account for the remainder of the delay before reports were posted or were there other causes for delay?
5.                  What is the median time between the date of an APHIS inspection and the publication of the inspection report in instances where licensed facilities appeal the inspection report?
6.                  Given that APHIS’ most recent inspection of the Envigo facility on March 8, 2022 uncovered five repeat AWA violations, will APHIS inspectors return to the facility for a fifth time to monitor progress on corrective actions?

We appreciate APHIS’ continued attention to this important issue, and look forward to a prompt response. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our staff.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is renewing his push to safeguard the health and welfare of American-trained bomb-sniffing dogs tasked with fighting terrorism abroad.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Sen. Warner today highlighted new language that requires the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP), which came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

“I was glad to see that the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 15, included language requiring the State Department to report to Congress on the status of dogs currently in, and retired from the program, as well as an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations,” wrote Sen. Warner.

“As you know, the Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to initially train these canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other efforts and expenses meant to ensure the success of the program. Once abroad, these loyal canines play an invaluable role, often risking their lives in support of their security mission, working to keep important assets, their teams, and broader populations safe,” he continued. “For these reasons and more, it is morally wrong and unacceptable for any deployed dog to be subjected to mistreatment, malnutrition, improper care, or unsafe shelter. Congress and the American people deserve to know the steps that the Department has taken and is planning, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not placing dogs in these conditions.”

The Warner-led language – signed into law as part of the government spending bill – requires the State Department to produce a report for Congress that accounts for each of the dogs in the program, including those who are now retired. The report, due to Congress within 90 days, must also provide an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s 2019 recommendations.

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country. He previously raised alarm about the 2019 Inspector General (IG) report, which found that the trained dogs who died in the Kingdom of Jordan suffered from various medical problems, including largely preventable illnesses like parvovirus and heat exhaustion. Many of the dogs were trained at a State Department-contracted facility located in Winchester, Va.

The State Department’s antiterrorism assistance program provides Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries to support local law enforcement in deterring and countering terrorism. The program is primarily implemented by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance, in partnership with the Bureau of Counterterrorism. Although the State Department previously relied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to provide and train the bomb-sniffing dogs, in 2016, the State Department established its own canine training center, the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Va., which is responsible for procuring dogs, training foreign students as handlers, and conducting assessments to determine a country’s ability to care for the dogs and operate a canine program. In addition, the CVC is responsible for conducting health and welfare assessments in foreign countries.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

I write today regarding efforts by the Department of State to address serious concerns that Congress and the Department’s Inspector General, among others, have raised about the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP).

In September 2019, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State (OIG) released a report, Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance Explosive Detection Canine Program – Health and Welfare . As you know, the evaluation of this program resulted from allegations that the U.S. was providing insufficient oversight, resulting in the inadequate health care, mistreatment, and premature deaths of a number of dogs. Months later, in December 2019, OIG issued a subsequent report, in response to another complaint alleging that “additional canines beyond those described in the [September] evaluation had died” from preventable causes.

As part of its evaluations, OIG made a series of recommendations to the Department to address the serious concerns over the health and welfare of the dogs trained and deployed as a part of this program.

I was glad to see that the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 15, included language requiring the State Department to report to Congress on the status of dogs currently in, and retired from the program, as well as an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations.

As you know, the Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to initially train these canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other efforts and expenses meant to ensure the success of the program. Once abroad, these loyal canines play an invaluable role, often risking their lives in support of their security mission, working to keep important assets, their teams, and broader populations safe.

For these reasons and more, it is morally wrong and unacceptable for any deployed dog to be subjected to mistreatment, malnutrition, improper care, or unsafe shelter. Congress and the American people deserve to know the steps that the Department has taken and is planning, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not placing dogs in these conditions.

I’m glad that the Department under your leadership will be examining this issue, and I look forward to seeing the results from the report within the required 90-day period. To coincide with that report, I would ask that the Department also brief my staff on the current status of the program.

This issue remains very important to me, and I look forward to working with you as needed to continue addressing reforms to this program.

Sincerely, 

###