RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's U.S. senators called Thursday on a federal agency to immediately suspend the license of a dog breeding facility where recent inspections have found repeated animal welfare violations.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine issued a joint letter asking the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to suspend Envigo's license for its Cumberland facility for 21 days, move to revoke its license outright and consider civil penalties of up to $730,000.
“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,” the Democratic senators wrote.
The company, which breeds dogs for research, did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.
Warner and Kaine said that over nine months, four inspections at the facility found 73 violations. Among them were housing violations that led to dogs being injured; insufficient cleaning and sanitation; insufficient staffing; and instances of euthanasia being performed without a sedative.
“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 letter said, citing one of the inspection reports.
Warner and Kaine also raised concerns in their letter about what they said were delays in publishing the “horrific findings” of the inspections. They posed a series of questions for the inspection service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including about the timeline of the reports' publication and whether inspectors will return for a fifth time to monitor progress on corrective actions.
The senators asked for a response by April 20.
The Virginia General Assembly passed several animal welfare measures this year intended to tighten up the facility's requirements and strengthen state oversight. The measures are awaiting action by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The senators' letter came after U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria joined six other representatives in February in writing to the inspection service, raising similar concerns about why Envigo's license had not been suspended.