CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A federal judge in Charlottesville will allow the controversial Envigo beagle breeding facility to resume selling dogs for biomedical research purposes, but has ordered that they cease breeding new puppies.
The decision, written by Judge Norman Moon of the Federal District Court for Western Virginia, comes as the facility’s owners prepare to shutter it permanently following months of controversy over inhumane conditions there.
The order specified that Envigo will only be allowed to transfer the beagles to clients who signed contracts for the dogs before May 21, when the court issued a temporary restraining order against the company due to serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The company is still banned from selling the dogs to new buyers, most of whom are scientific research facilities.
“There is good reason to think that the public interest would be better served by allowing Defendant to fulfill its contracts,” Judge Moon wrote.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were the first to uncover abuses at the facility, publishing video showing sick dogs living in unsanitary conditions. They issued a statement opposing the decision to allow Envigo to sell some of the dogs.
“[Envigo] wants to wring every last penny out of the exploitation of these long-neglected dogs, who have already been through so much,” said PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch.
Earlier this week, Envigo announced that they would permanently close the facility in Cumberland County, citing an increase in “required investments to improve the facility and the lead time to achieve these improvements.”
“As a result, we have decided we will not be investing further in this facility, and it will be closed,” the company wrote in a statement.
U.S. attorneys sought to have the company barred from making any sales, including those already contracted for, hoping to push the company to put the animals up for adoption.
“The United States remains ready and able to assist Envigo with the coordination of the placement of the beagles,” they wrote in a court filing.
But lawyers for Envigo argued that the quickest way to end violations of the Animal Welfare Act was to transfer dogs out of the facility and shut it down – allowing the company to recoup some of their losses in the process.
Even if Envigo does shut down the Cumberland facility and end their animal welfare violations, they won’t be out of hot water.
“Defendant is not being given a free pass,” Judge Moon wrote. “Punitive consequences, including financial consequences, may follow from this litigation after a final judgment on the merits.”
U.S. attorneys and representatives of Envigo now have until June 22 to decide how to transfer all 3,000 dogs from the facility, when they’ll be required to present that agreement to the court.