Every Dog Has Its Day: Best Thing Virginia General Assembly Did This Session

If you really want to know my weakness, here’s a hint: they have four legs, cold noses, silky ears they love to scratch, and pleading eyes that could extract affection from the most fragile human heart.

I attribute to the theology of Will Rogers: “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

Anyone who has seen me swoon over the Hanks, Georgias, Reesies or JayJays who take their owners for walks around our neighborhood or coo over the friendly woofs and wagging tails of the puppies along the road that my wife and I walk every day can attest to that. Just like those who have seen me pet, chat or struggle with the adorably goofy rescue puppies that have called our home.

This is how the 2022 Virginia General Assembly redeemed itself, at least in the eyes of this caninophile, from some of its attacks on common sense and the common good with the adoption of five bills in the final days of its 2022 session that would impose new restrictions on a factory breeding beagles in Cumberland County.

The alleged inhumane treatment of beagles – including puppies – at global biotech giant Envigo’s dog gulag has been abundantly chronic and commented in the Virginia Mercury and elsewhere.

It was documented in 2017 after U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors found multiple violations during a routine inspection. Later that year, an animal rights organization used a drone to make a overwhelming video offering a bird’s eye view of dogs crammed into a sprawling complex of cages.

In the years that followed, animal rights groups and their well-meaning allies began to push for Virginia to pass legislation to bring the compound that raises thousands into state custody. dogs each year for medical, veterinary and biological experimentation and research.

Almost every year, these efforts have been spurned by the facility’s deep-pocketed owners (Envigo bought it from Labcorp in 2019) and their elite group of well-paid lobbyists to navigate its resistance to government regulation. ‘state around the steep shoals of the Virginia portion. Legislature time.

Ahead of this year’s passage, the culmination of legislation requiring minimum standards for animals failed in 2020 on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic. The problem didn’t even surface last year.

But a few factors that didn’t bode well for Envigo led to a concerted legislative push this year.

One was consecutive reports in July and October – again, resulting from USDA inspections – which showed compelling evidence of unnecessary suffering among dogs at the Cumberland facility.

Beagles locked in kennels at an Envigo-owned breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia. Federal regulators and animal welfare groups have uncovered serious violations at the facility, including hundreds of puppy deaths with no cause listed. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

As Kate Masters noted in a report on the legislation last week, the second of two federal reports found that more than a dozen female beagles were starved for nearly two days even while nursing puppies — a deliberate procedure that facility employed to expedite the weaning (and ultimately the bulk purchase and transport) of puppies. It also revealed serious dental disease, eye infections and skin lesions in hundreds of adult dogs and puppies crammed into stuffy kennels for hours.

Simultaneously, Kate noted, the famous authoritative people for the ethical treatment of animals made a sting in which a PETA agent surreptitiously working as an animal care technician reported that dogs were routinely euthanized without sedation and that cages were sprayed under pressure – liquid at sufficient pressure. cutting the skin or removing the bark from a tree – while the dogs remained indoors.

Not only has 2021 sucked from a PR perspective for Envigo, but the reports have bolstered political support for the efforts of a group of seasoned lawmakers who also easily fall in love with dogs — or at least won’t tolerate cruelty to them. them for profit.

Envigo’s other misfortune was having skilful, seasoned and resolute legislative opponents. None were more crucial than Senator Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, a conservative country lawyer whose fur babies include Daisy, a sweet-tempered beagle who was once confined to Cumberland.

One of the bills passed by the General Assembly this year prohibits federally regulated commercial breeders who have received citations under the federal Animal Welfare Act from trafficking dogs – an important safeguard but reasonable on Envigo’s operations. Identical bills were proposed by Stanley in the Senate and fellow Republican Del. Rob Bell of Albemarle; both adopted unanimously.

Standing up to Envigo this year has not only been resounding, it has been bipartisan.

A related invoice that Stanley co-sponsored with Democratic Senator Jennifer Boysko of Fairfax fills a gap in Virginia law that regulates commercial dog breeders but gives a free pass to companies that breed animals for medical research. This left the Commonwealth without a legal basis to inspect the Cumberland facility. The new law would classify beagles bred by Envigo in Cumberland as pets unless they are actively involved in clinical trials, giving state agents the right to investigate allegations of animal cruelty.

This legislation also passed both houses with zero against.

Envigo’s headaches don’t stop at what just happened in Place du Capitole.

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria, D-Norfolk, and six other House members signed a letter in February urging the USDA to lift the Cumberland facility’s license in light of the violations found. Perhaps this will create a fire under the reluctant bureaucracy that has yet to impose disciplinary action against Envigo following disturbing reports over the past year.

But now, if Uncle Sam can’t pull himself together, these new bills should allow the Commonwealth, finally, to do the right thing.

Of course, that’s assuming Governor Glenn Youngkin sign invoices, now destined for his office. He has yet to make his views known on the legislation.

But surely a smart, rising GOP politician wouldn’t risk the wrath of decent, dog-loving Americans, especially in battlegrounds for the early 2024 nominations like Iowa and New Hampshire. . Nor would he invite a scathing waiver of a united, bipartisan Virginia Legislature that, for now anyway, stands squarely behind the two Lady and the homeless man.

I mean, he wouldn’t. Would he?

This column is dedicated to Mars, Meadow, Yogi, Millie, Marley, Daisy, and Mr. Flop.

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