A beagle, as seen here, is the type of dog that Envigo neglected. Credit: Wikicommons

Major Dog Breeder Gets ‘Largest Ever Fine' for Animal Welfare Violations

Dog breeder Envigo admitted to criminally violating the Animal Welfare Act in how it treated thousands of beagles.

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced on Monday "the largest ever fine" in an animal welfare case. According to the press release, the Virginia-based dog breeder Envigo pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The company agreed to pay $35 million in fines for neglecting dogs at its facility as well as discharging untreated wastewater into local waterways.

During a press conference, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim praised the federal laws that allowed his office to hold Envigo accountable. He described the case as a company placing "profit before compliance." And he added: "Our nation's animal welfare and clean water laws exist to prevent suffering and harm."

Christopher R. Kavanaugh, the U.S. attorney for Virginia's western district, described the "historic monetary penalties" as "a clear message" to companies in every industry. "This callous approach led to dire consequences: the inhumane treatment of animals and the contamination of our waterway," he said.

What Envigo did to earn the ire of the federal government

The Justice Department said Envigo and its subsidiaries failed to provide adequate veterinary care and safe living conditions for thousands of beagles living at its facility in Cumberland County, Virginia. It also failed to properly operate and maintain a wastewater treatment plant at the same facility.

In 2022, investigators reported the inhuman conditions, saying the company failed to meet basic standards set by the Animal Welfare Act. As a result, Envigo had to surrender more than 4,000 beagles, so instead of lab testing, the animals went up for adoption.

According to the initial criminal complaint, the company had amassed more than 60 citations for animal welfare violations in less than a year. Authorities also referenced past government inspection reports in which dogs were found diseased, malnourished, and overall neglected.

Under the terms of the agreement, Evnigo will pay $22 million in criminal fines, $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, and $1.9 million to the Humane Society for the animal welfare violations. The company will also have to pay $3.5 million to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and $500,000 to Cumberland County for environmental violations.