Beagles rescued from controversial breeding facility up for adoption in Hampton Roads
The kennel at the Chesapeake Humane Society’s adoption shelter is a cacophony of barking on a morning late last week.
But the shelter’s four newest canine residents are a bit quieter, mainly exhibiting some intense sniffing.
The dogs, four beagles, are among nearly 500 in Virginia that are slowly being transferred from a controversial breeding facility in western Virginia.
Shelter manager Cat Daniels said the animals are mostly healthy and friendly but have some dental issues that will be resolved in their clinic.
“They were initially just a little bit nervous,” she said. “They have very quickly opened up.”
More than 20 animals from the breeding facility recently came to Hampton Roads. As well as the Chesapeake shelter, they’re at the Norfolk Animal Care Center, Portsmouth Humane Society and Norfolk and Virginia Beach SPCAs.
Dozens of news reports over the past several years have documented issues at the Cumberland facility of Envigo, a company that breeds dogs to be research animals in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Local shelters haven’t said their beagles came from Envigo. But the company began transferring its beagles in recent months to releasing agencies around the state.
Most recently, federal officials cited Envigo in December for animal welfare violations. They said more than 300 puppies died of “unknown causes” over seven months, according to the Washington Post.
Authorities found hundreds of adult dogs and puppies kept inside a building that caused intense stress for the canines because of excessive heat and infrequent cleaning.
In response to a request for comment, an Envigo spokesman sent WHRO a list of steps the company has taken to improve the Cumberland facility.
They include increasing salaries to recruit and retain staff, adopting out dogs to decrease the number on site and conducting veterinary exams.
“We continue to strive to do better,” the company wrote in a statement dated mid-November. “We do not neglect our animals and are committed to ensuring any sick animal receives the proper care they deserve.”
The statement acknowledged that officials needed to be “more diligent” in ensuring that food was pest-free and installing a better cooling system.
With the facility making headlines in recent months, Virginia legislators unanimously passed several so-called “beagle bills” addressing the issue.
The lawmakers who led those efforts are now the names of Chesapeake’s four newest beagles:
Stanley, Irene, Roberta and Jenny B.
Stanley is named after Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin.
“I’ve never had a dog named after me before,” Stanley told WHRO. “So that’s an honor.”
He’s led the placement of about 480 beagles from the Envigo facility, including taking in two himself.
Beagles are often used for research because they are smaller and docile. When the pandemic halted lots of research activity, Envigo ended up with a surplus of the animals, Stanley said.
“I told them right then and there, you’re not going to euthanize those dogs,” he said.
The company agreed to release the beagles to shelters around the state, including paying for spaying and neutering and vaccinating the animals.
“It’s a win for the animals. It’s a win for Virginia. And it really is a win for Envigo,” Stanley said. “I think this is the right and noble and just thing to do.”
Several “beagle bills” sponsored by Stanley passed the Virginia legislature unanimously and are headed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin for his signature.
One prohibits commercial dog or cat breeders from selling animals bred by someone who’s received certain animal welfare citations. The others require such entities to submit annual veterinary records to the state, require that surplus animals be put up for adoption and clarify that dogs and cats for sale for research are considered companion animals for the purpose of cruelty statutes.
Daniels of the Chesapeake Humane Society said the organization hopes to provide the beagles with an enriching life exploring the outdoors after being confined as they had been in the breeding facility.
Beagles are sweet in temperament and make great family pets, she added.
“They're very wonderful pets, and these protections and laws are going to make more beagles available for adoption,” she said. “While these breeding facilities do and will continue to exist, we are advocating for stronger laws for the protection and comfort of these animals.”
Those interested in adopting can visit the Chesapeake Humane Society. People who want to adopt a beagle can also contact Stanley's senate office directly at (804) 698-7520.