RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed five bills Monday to support animal welfare reform for dogs and cats bred and sold for experimental purposes.
According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, these laws, dubbed “the Beagle Bills,” ensure that these animals are protected by Virginia’s animal cruelty laws. They clarify the inclusion of animals bred and sold for experimental purposes in these protections and give authorities the ability to take action in the event of violations.
“Today’s remarkable achievement brought all Republicans and Democrats together to protect our four-legged voters,” Youngkin said. “I will sign five bills, and these five bills, on each of them, every voting member of the General Assembly voted for them.”
The governor was joined Monday by state lawmakers at the Executive Mansion who championed those bills.
“A dog is a dog,” said Delegate Robert Bell (R-58th District), who introduced HB 1350 to the House. “If it’s for a pet store, it should have the same rules as for any other use.”
“The Beagle Tickets”
HB 1350 and SB 87
These laws amend the Complete Animal Care Act to include cats and cat breeders. The previous language referred only to dogs and their breeders.
These laws also specify that breeders or dealers include any person or entity that breeds cats or dogs that are federally regulated as research animals. An old loophole will be closed, so breeders and dealers will be prohibited from importing or selling cats and dogs bred by anyone with certain violations of animal welfare law.
Specific language has been included to refer to animals sold for “experimental purposes”.
This law requires breeders of cats and dogs bred for experimental purposes to keep records of these animals for two years from the date of sale or transfer.
A quarterly summary of these records should be sent to the state veterinarian and made available to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, animal control officers, and law enforcement.
The current comprehensive animal care section of the code only requires animal testing facilities to offer dogs and cats, which are no longer needed, for adoption before euthanizing them. This law obliges breeders of cats and dogs for experimental purposes to do the same with their surplus animals.
This law clarifies that dogs and cats in the possession of breeders who sell animals for experimental purposes fall under the protection of Virginia animal cruelty laws.
The ‘Beagle Bills’ and Envigo dog breeding
As previously reported by 8News, Cumberland County dog-breeding facility Envigo has been cited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for numerous violations over the years related to these new laws.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an animal rights organization that has filed several federal complaints against Envigo, applauded the new laws on Monday.
“These precedent-setting laws prevent breeders who seriously violate animal welfare laws from selling dogs/cats to labs, placing those animals under the protection of state cruelty laws, and allowing the adoption of dogs and cats released by these breeders/dealers,” said SAEN co-founder Michael A. Budkie, AHT. “This will force Envigo and other criminal breeders to obey the law or go out of business. “
“The USDA is moving at a glacial pace. It still hasn’t taken enforcement action against this facility, despite 73 violations, including dozens of direct or critical violations,” Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told 8News. (PETA).
“Their license should have been suspended by now and the animals should have been confiscated. So it marks a new day.
Nachminovitch oversaw a 2021 undercover investigation into the Envigo breeding facility that found 5,000 beagle dogs and puppies confined to small, sterile kennels and cages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“In addition to being transparent and accountable with record keeping, requiring this facility not to euthanize so-called surplus animals, but to make them available for adoption,” she said. “If these chronic violations of federal animal welfare law continue, this facility will have to leave our state.”
Sen. Bill Stanley (R-20th District), who adopted two of the dogs formerly housed at the facility, said Envigo will have about 16 months to correct any violations.
“They made a commitment to me to do that,” Stanley said. “They promised, maybe, a five or $10 million investment in the facility to make sure these violations never happen again. But we will see.
Hundreds of beagles from Envigo’s Cumberland facility have been adopted, with Senator Stanley telling 8News his office is looking to find homes for another 180 of them.
“These were not considered pets, even though they were, because they were inside a fence. So if there was any abuse or neglect of these animals inside the Envigo facility fence, it was not a crime. But if the same offense was committed outside the fence by an individual Commonwealth member or Commonwealth citizen, it is a crime,” Stanley said.
“I would like a day when we don’t breed dogs for experimentation. I want it soon. But if they do, they will treat them like man’s best friend and treat them humanely.
In response to the violations found during a March 8, 2022 USDA inspection of the facility, Envigo spokesperson Mark Hubbad noted that the recurrences actually show “significant progress” over previous violations. previous violations found during a USDA inspection in late 2021.
“The USDA has also provided Envigo with a memo acknowledging the improvements made and momentum gained over the past 4 months at Cumberland,” a statement from Envigo read. “Additionally, the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) recently indicated that the Cumberland site is recommended for continued accreditation based on improvements being made.”