Last fall, our Animal Rescue Team worked with authorities in Virginia to help remove 110 cats from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed dog and cat dealer as part of an alleged cruelty situation. Since March 2023 alone, the USDA had documented more than 50 Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility, including serious ones such as failure to provide proper veterinary care, the housing of incompatible cats together and keeping animals in small enclosures that did not meet the minimum requirements set by the Animal Welfare Act. The breeder had been in our 2023 Horrible Hundred report (an annual list of problem breeders in the U.S.) for inadequate veterinary care and visibly ailing animals. The Virginia Attorney General’s office served a warrant, and we assisted in helping them seize the animals remaining at the breeder. 

Since the day of that rescue, our team worked on facilitating the safe transfer of the cats by connecting them to veterinary care and placing them with our shelter and rescue partners, where they could find adoptive homes. 

Meanwhile, the feds were working on preventing the cruelty from continuing: The USDA referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice which was already in the process of taking further action. We are pleased to report that, for the animals who suffered, justice was delivered: In December 2023, the DOJ and the USDA reached an agreement with the breeders and permanently revoked their license. The court also applied more than $300,000 in civil penalties, which was held in abeyance.

This positive outcome is just one that comes after the USDA found itself under intense pressure when  two of the agency’s top animal welfare officials had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. The grand jury was investigating why these officials appeared to take no action against Envigo, even after dozens of documented Animal Welfare Act violations at its Virginia facility, including the deaths of many dogs. You’ll remember Envigo as the company that breeds animals, like beagles, for use in research; in 2022, a rescue team from the Humane Society of the United States helped to remove nearly 4,000 beagles at the request of the DOJ and in cooperation with the USDA. Not long after being subpoenaed, the two animal welfare officials retired.