Animal welfare groups brace for massive dog rescue in Virginia: NPR

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About 4,000 beagles are rescued from a struggling breeding facility in Virginia run by a company that breeds and sells animals for research. Animal welfare associations are trying to find them a home.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today, animal welfare groups across the country will begin caring for thousands of dogs. This month, 4,000 beagles had to be removed from a struggling breeding facility in central Virginia. From member station WVTF, reports Sandy Hausman.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF BARKING DOGS)

SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: An international company called Envigo breeds and sells animals for medical research. Last year, a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals employee went undercover here at Envigo’s dog farm west of Richmond. She made this and other recordings documenting animal abuse, according to PETA director Daphna Nachminovitch.

DAPHNA NACHMINOVITCH: Mother dogs who were starved for days. She found over 360 dead puppies. These animals were deprived of veterinary care for painful conditions.

HAUSMAN: She says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces federal animal welfare law, has also run into problems.

NASHMINOVITCH: The facility was cited for 74 violations in just 10 months, but the USDA took no enforcement action.

HAUSMAN: So PETA filed a formal complaint with the USDA and contacted state lawmakers. They rarely agree on anything, but have unanimously supported bills that protect dogs and cats bred for medical research. In May, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh led hundreds of federal, state and local police and animal welfare advocates in a raid on the facility.

CHRISTOPHER KAVANAUGH: I was a federal prosecutor for 15 years. It was one of the most complex operations I have seen.

HAUSMAN: Four hundred and forty-six beagles were taken in for emergency care. Under a consent decree, Envigo has agreed to close its Virginia center for the next 60 days. The society, which did not respond to a call for comment, has given custody of about 4,000 dogs to the Humane Society of the United States. This group is now working with local shelters to find homes for the puppies. Nachminovitch cites overwhelming public interest, but warns that they may not be good pets for everyone.

NASHMINOVITCH: They’ve been kept in cages all their lives. They may be scared. They never took the stairs. They never walked through a door. They won’t know what certain noises are. And so anyone who is considering adopting one of these dogs should have patience and be at home with the dogs.

HAUSMAN: U.S. Attorney Kavanaugh hopes this case puts other ranchers on notice nationwide.

KAVANAUGH: Whether it’s to treat an animal humanely and appropriately is not a matter for your profit margin; it is a requirement under the law.

HAUSMAN: Nachminovitch says PETA will monitor other Envigo operations in Texas, Indiana and Pennsylvania. She also hopes this question will spark public debate about a more controversial issue – the use of animals in medical research.

For NPR News, I’m Sandy Hausman.

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