Gov. Northam Recommends Extending Protections to Dogs Bred for Experiments

Governor’s Recommendation Would Close Loophole That Left Virginia’s Largest Commercial Dog Breeder Exempt From State Oversight

For Immediate Release:
April 15, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Richmond, Va.

At the request of state and national animal protection organizations, including PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, and Humane Dominion, Gov. Ralph Northam has recommended closing a significant loophole in the Code of Virginia by amending the definition of “commercial dog breeder.” The recommended amendment to Senate Bill 891 would mean that the definition of “commercial dog breeder” would no longer be limited to those breeding dogs for sale “as companion animals,” extending protections to dogs commercially bred for any purpose. The bill as previously passed by the General Assembly exempts facilities that breed animals for sale to laboratories for use in experimentation. The recommendation is up for a vote on April 22.

Opposition to the governor’s recommendation is expected from multimillion-dollar corporation Envigo, which runs a massive breeding facility in Cumberland that keeps approximately 5,000 dogs and puppies and nearly 60 cats for sale to laboratories, including overseas. Last fall, PETA released disturbing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) video footage recorded at the facility documenting serious violations of federal law. USDA inspectors found dogs held in dilapidated, ramshackle, and unsafe enclosures; waste dripping from upper-level enclosures into lower-level ones; and enclosures with several inches of fecal buildup under them, among other horrors. (The full inspection report can be read here.)

“A facility that has nothing to hide would welcome oversight to ensure compliance with Virginia’s standards of care,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA thanks Gov. Northam for not letting Envigo or any commercial dog breeder in the commonwealth take advantage of a double standard and evade oversight on a technicality, and we urge legislators to vote in favor of the animals who desperately need these protections.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—notes that animals sold by Envigo’s Cumberland facility have been used in experiments in which dogs’ corneas were wounded to the point of ulceration and puppies were injected with steroids, killed, and dissected.

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