A controversial beagle breeding facility in Cumberland is once again the subject of state and federal scrutiny after an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture uncovered more than 300 puppy deaths attributed to “unknown causes” over a six-month period this year, with the agency faulting the facility for dangerous housing, inadequate veterinary care and a lack of recordkeeping.
The deaths were only one component of a July visit that found dozens of animal safety violations and critical deficiencies in the facility’s operations. Federal inspectors reported an “accumulation” of feces, urine and insects below kennel floors, infestations of flies and ants in dog feeders and another 71 beagles that were injured after dogs in adjoining kennels were able to bite their ears or tails through the wall. Those dogs were subsequently euthanized, “however substantial or minor” the injuries were, officials found.
A second report, completed after the same inspection, detailed a host of additional violations, including more than a dozen dogs with health problems including severe dental disease, skin lesions and eye infections. Inspectors found hundreds of puppies and adult dogs housed in kennels where the temperature exceeded 85 degrees for hours with no way of cooling the building. And more than a dozen female dogs were deprived of food for nearly two days while nursing their puppies, part of the facility’s “standard operating procedure” for weaning, inspectors found.
“Metal automatic food dispensers which were normally mounted on the doors of each cage were turned around and left on the doors of the cage, so that the dogs could see and smell the food but could not eat it,” the report found.
It’s the second time in less than five years that inspectors have found serious problems at the facility, owned by Envigo, a global biotechnology company valued at more than $500 million (in September, the company was purchased by Inotiv, a drug discovery firm). For decades, the Cumberland facility has bred thousands of beagles a year for research, supplying hospitals, universities and federal partners with a steady stream of dogs for medical and veterinary experimentation.
The 2021 inspection coincided with an undercover investigation conducted by the Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has accused Envigo of animal cruelty. Daphna Nachminovitch, the senior vice president of PETA’s cruelty investigations group, said an investigator from the welfare group was hired as an animal care technician and worked at the facility from April to November.
Over that time period, the investigator collected photos and video showing dead puppies, including a dog that appears to be eviscerated, and workers with no formal veterinary training who conducted medical procedures on the dogs. In a 14-page affidavit submitted to federal regulators, the PETA investigator said dogs were routinely euthanized with no sedation and that cages were power-sprayed with beagles still housed inside them.
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