Skip to main content

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim Remarks on Animal Breeder Pleading Guilty to Animal Welfare and Pollution Crimes


Charlottesville, VA
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, U.S. Attorney Kavanaugh, for your remarks, and for your office’s continued work to prosecute this case. We would not be here today without the coordinated effort. And thank you all for being here.

As the U.S. Attorney mentioned, my name is Todd Kim. I serve as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, including the hard-working and dedicated prosecutors in the Environmental Crimes Section.

We are here today to announce a plea agreement in which Envigo admits to criminally conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act and the Clean Water Act.

Envigo violated federal law by subjecting thousands of beagles to conditions well below minimum standards at a breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia. Dogs were abused. Dogs were subject to euthanasia without proper sedation. Food was withheld from nursing mothers. Dogs lived in overcrowded kennels cleaned so infrequently that feces accumulated. Dogs were given non-potable drinking water and, at times, food contaminated with maggots and other insects. Envigo knew all this, and more. And yet Envigo failed to take sufficient action to bring this facility into compliance.

Envigo’s conduct led to the deaths of hundreds of dogs and harm to thousands more. The cycle continued until law enforcement and the Justice Department stepped in.

When law enforcement executed a multi-day search warrant at the facility in May 2022, we seized 445 beagles in acute distress. In court, we quickly sought an emergency temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. By September 2022, due to our actions, over 4,000 dogs had been transferred out of the Cumberland facility pursuant to a consent agreement and with the help of the Humane Society of the United States. Today’s announcement of a criminal plea agreement marks the next significant step in this matter.

Why did this happen? Envigo placed profit before compliance with the law. 

Envigo unlawfully enriched itself by failing to spend the necessary money on upgrades and by failing to hire enough trained and competent staff, both of which it needed to do to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Envigo hired and retained an unqualified attending veterinarian despite known concerns. Envigo perpetuated deficient veterinary practices at the facility, sanctioning improper euthanasia procedures and inadequate health checks.

It didn’t have to be this way. Between 2019 and May 2022, Envigo received around $16 million in connection with the sale of nearly 15,000 dogs from this facility. Yet all of those dogs were subjected to care that fell below the minimum standards required by law.

Congress enacted the Animal Welfare Act in 1966 to ensure, among other things, that animals intended for use in research facilities receive humane care and treatment. The law sets forth standards of care so that animals have healthy environments in which to live and grow. As detailed in the criminal information filed today in the district court, Envigo repeatedly and egregiously fell short. The inadequate veterinary care and staffing at the Cumberland facility, combined with unsafe and unsanitary living conditions for the dogs housed there, led to beagles getting sick, suffering injuries and repeatedly dying.

After the search warrant, law enforcement continued its investigation, and as detailed in the criminal information, evidence was found of violations of the Clean Water Act as well – these related to an on-site wastewater treatment plant that Envigo used to treat dog and human waste. The company possessed a permit to discharge treated effluent into Maxey Mill Creek. But beginning no later than January 2020, the treatment system was in trouble and the facility needed capital improvements to properly handle the waste. Again, Envigo failed to invest the funds necessary to bring the Cumberland facility into compliance with federal law, this time with the terms of its Clean Water Act permit. 

By July 2021, Envigo substantially increased how much wastewater went to the treatment plant. This increase in wastewater taxed the old, worn-out system, resulting in violations of the permit and in water laden with fecal matter being used to flush the troughs below the dogs’ kennels. Additionally, Envigo discharged more than 600,000 gallons of wastewater that failed to comply with permit limits into Maxey Mill Creek.

If accepted by the court, Envigo’s plea agreement includes a commitment to pay two $11 million criminal fines: one for violating the Animal Welfare Act and another for violating the Clean Water Act – a total of $22 million in fines, including the largest-ever fine in an Animal Welfare Act case.

The plea agreement also includes provisions to hold Envigo and its affiliates – including Envigo’s parent company Inotiv – accountable and subject to increased animal care standards. All facilities that Envigo and Inotiv operate worldwide will exceed the minimum compliance requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. Envigo will no longer sell or breed dogs. It will improve its facilities and hire well-trained staff and veterinarians and hold continuing education requirements. All its facilities in the United States will adhere to a nationwide compliance plan. And an independent compliance monitor will review all facilities, and be empowered to take whatever steps are needed to ensure Envigo is in full compliance with applicable laws, agreements and terms of probation.

In total, the plea agreement guarantees more than $35.5 million in commitments – including $22 million in fines, $7 million in facility improvements, and $3.5 million in mitigation, as well and the costs for funding the compliance monitor.

The deterrence message here is clear. The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the Clean Water Act.

Our success today is attributable to the leadership and partnership of the prosecution team who stand with us here – Banu Rangarajan, Sarah Brown, Randy Ramseyer, Carrie Macon, Corey Hall, Michelle Welch, Jillian Grubb, Stan Wojtkonski, Henry Barnet and Allison Landsman – prosecutors, staff and law enforcement officers who gave tirelessly to this investigation, working long hours and weekends. 

I want to especially thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division for their work in investigating this case. I also want to thank the Virginia State Police for the security assistance provided during the multi-day federal search of the facility in May 2022 and the assistance of the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force.

And again, I want to recognize the work of U.S. Attorney Kavanaugh’s team as well as the Virginia Attorney General’s Office in partnering with our team at the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in prosecuting this important case.

And with that, I turn it back over to U.S. Attorney Kavanaugh.

Animal Welfare
Updated June 3, 2024