May 24, 2022
Speaking of Research is deeply troubled by recent events concerning the commercial laboratory animal breeder, Envigo (now owned by Inotiv). In brief, wide-ranging appalling animal care failures and ongoing animal welfare concerns at the facility have been documented in reports from US federal oversight agency inspections. The scope of problems described in the publicly available documents is extensive. Those documents include United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports and a federal restraining order issued late last week and posted by Science Insider.
According to its website, Envigo, an Inotiv company, is the largest organization that is dedicated to providing research animals and related products and services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, government, academia and other life science organizations. Envigo has more than 20 locations across North America, Europe and the Middle East. The company is the source of animals, including dogs, for research facilities around the world. Dogs contribute to a range of studies, including cancer, gene therapy, and retinal dystrophy. While there are a number of research facilities that conduct canine studies, those animals are typically obtained from large commercial breeders such as Envigo. From its website, it appears that Envigo supplies research animals to facilities in many countries. In the US, federal law requires facilities that conduct research, testing, or that breed dogs for research, be registered with or licensed by the USDA. Both registered and licensed facilities are inspected by USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMOs) to assure compliance with federal regulations and standards for animal care. As we’ve written many times before, USDA registration, facility inspection reports, and enforcement actions are publicly-available via the federal website.
As a consequence of alleged animal welfare violations uncovered through inspections by the USDA, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Envigo on May 21. The order bars the company from “breeding, selling, or otherwise dealing in beagles at the Cumberland Facility.” The Cumberland Facility in Virginia is one of the 12 Envigo locations in the US. The court concluded that “the Government has provided sufficient evidence that Envigo is engaged in serious and ongoing violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and that an immediate temporary restraining order must be issued to put a halt to such violations pending further proceedings.” According to ABC News “over 300 puppies died in the company’s Cumberland County facility due to “unknown causes ” over the course of seven months, many of which were not given anesthesia before being euthanized by intracardiac injection.”
The federal complaint identifies staffing and management shortfalls as the critical cause for the failures in animal care. The Associated Press reports that “as of Thursday’s filing of the complaint, 145 dogs and puppies veterinarians found to be in acute distress had been seized.”
The company denies the allegations. As reported yesterday by David Grimm: “Envigo tells Science that it is ‘fully cooperating with DOJ and other involved authorities. … Envigo denies the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend against the lawsuit. The highest quality of animal welfare is a core value of our company and is central to our business.'”
As an organization that strongly supports and advocates for the humane and responsible treatment of laboratory animals, Speaking of Research denounces any organization that does not meet its obligation to ensure the welfare of its animals and make concerted efforts to respond to errors with corrective action. The USDA findings indicate conduct that is inexcusable and reprehensible in terms of animal care and welfare. If these serious allegations are true, then Envigo deserves condemnation for its callous treatment of animals.