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Press Release

Animal Breeder Pleads Guilty to Animal Welfare and Pollution Crimes and Will Pay More than $35M, Including Record Fine in an Animal Welfare Case

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
In 2022, Justice Department Secured Surrender of Over 4,000 Beagles from Envigo’s Cumberland, Virginia, Facility

Envigo RMS LLC pleaded guilty today to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act, and Envigo Global Services Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act. Both pleas are in relation to a dog breeding facility located in Cumberland County, Virginia, from which the Justice Department secured the surrender of over 4,000 beagles in 2022.

As part of the resolution, Inotiv — of which Envigo RMS and Envigo Global Services are subsidiaries — will guarantee more than $35 million in payments, be subject to increased animal care standards and be subject to a compliance monitor. This resolution marks the largest ever fine in an Animal Welfare Act case.

“Our nation’s animal welfare and clean water laws exist to prevent suffering and harm,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “That’s why we secured the transfer of thousands of beagles from Envigo’s Cumberland facility into adoption, and that’s why today’s plea agreement is so significant. The plea agreement includes the largest ever fine in an animal welfare case as well as heightened standards of care for facilities across the country.”

“Envigo promoted a business culture that prioritized profit and convenience over following the law. This callous approach led to dire consequences: the inhumane treatment of animals and the contamination of our waterway,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh for the Western District of Virginia. “The historic monetary penalties and significant compliance measures as part of these guilty pleas send a clear message: every company, in every industry, must have compliance and corporate responsibility as a critical part of their business model.”

“The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) were designed to protect animals from any type of inhumane treatment. Even in those instances of animals being bred for scientific and medical research purposes, they still must be provided with safe and sanitary living conditions,” said Special Agent in Charge Charmeka Parker of the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General. “AWA violations remain an investigative priority for us, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who fail to adhere to the provisions of the AWA.”

“Envigo compounded the heartbreaking nature of its animal welfare crimes by committing egregious Clean Water Act violations that undermined public health and the wellbeing of the animals in their care,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Everyone victimized in this precedent-setting animal welfare case deserved better: the workers, the beagles, the environment and the community. Envigo deserves every dollar of its record fine.”

“Envigo’s violations of the Clean Water Act and the Animal Welfare Act directly resulted in the contamination of local waterway, negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of the community, and the horrible suffering of over 4,000 beagles. This precedent-setting case emphasizes the power of collaboration between local, state and federal authorities,” said Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

According to court documents, Envigo RMS conspired to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide, among other things, adequate veterinary care, adequate staffing and safe living conditions for dogs housed at the Cumberland County facility.

In addition, Envigo Global Services conspired to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act by failing to properly operate and maintain the wastewater treatment plant at the Cumberland County facility, which led to massive unlawful discharges of insufficiently treated wastewater into a local waterway and also impacted the health and well-being of the dogs at the facility.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the entities will serve from three to five years of probation and pay a total criminal fine of $22 million — that is $11 million for each violation. In addition, the entities will pay approximately $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force and approximately $1.9 million to the Humane Society of the United States for direct assistance provided to the investigation.

An additional $3.5 million will be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to benefit and restore the environment and ecosystems in Cumberland County, at least $500,000 of which will be spent on purchasing riparian wetland or riparian land located in or near Cumberland.

The entities will spend at least $7 million to improve their facilities and personnel beyond the standards imposed by the Animal Welfare Act.

Finally, the entities will pay all costs associated with a compliance monitor, which will oversee the entities’ compliance with these enhanced animal welfare standards, the Animal Welfare Act, the Clean Water Act, a nationwide compliance plan and additional terms of the agreements and probation.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7.

The Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case. The Virginia State Police provided security assistance during a multi-day federal search in May 2022 of the dog breeding facility.

Senior Trial Attorney Banu Rangarajan and Trial Attorney Sarah Brown of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy Ramseyer, Corey Hall and Carrie Macon for the Western District of Virginia and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Welch (an Assistant Attorney General with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office) are prosecuting the case.

Updated June 3, 2024

Animal Welfare
Press Release Number: 24-695