Agency Left Thousands of Beagles to Suffer and Has Refused to Provide Animals in Labs, Puppy Mills, Roadside Zoos, and Elsewhere With Protection Provided by Law
For Immediate Release:
March 29, 2023
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Washington – Six animal protection organizations are calling on President Joe Biden to replace the leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its division responsible for enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), who have failed repeatedly and spectacularly to do so.
In a letter sent today, PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, the Center for a Humane Economy, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine urge Biden to fire top officials from the USDA and the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who, among other failings, sabotaged any semblance of meaningful action at the notorious, since-shuttered Envigo dog-breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, even though their own inspectors cited the facility a staggering 74 times between July 2021 and May 2022.
“The agency apparently lacks the will to ensure that the animals used by the industries it regulates have even the meager protections provided under law, despite clear direction from Congress to do so,” the letter states. “APHIS’ inadequate enforcement of the AWA in puppy mills, roadside zoos, and laboratories; its failure to address the public health risks posed by mink farming, primate laboratories, and cockfighting; and its inhumane mass killing methods all point to the urgent need for new leadership.”
This week, it was reported that APHIS Animal Care (AC) Program Deputy Administrator Betty Goldentyer, who headed the Envigo investigation, is stepping down. The organizations are now calling for Biden to replace all those in leadership positions at the USDA and specifically to fire Dr. Robert Gibbens, AC animal welfare operations director; Dr. Aaron Rhyner, then acting AC director, and Dr. Andrew Jones, AC assistant director. All were derelict in their duty to enforce the AWA and protect dogs who were suffering from untreated wounds and infections, among other horrors found at the facility.
When APHIS refused to act on the laundry list of violations its inspectors found by confiscating suffering animals, suspending or revoking the facility’s license, or seeking civil or criminal penalties, the Department of Justice opened its own investigation into Envigo, seizing 446 dogs in acute distress starting in May 2022. A dedicated community of animal welfare groups from across the country stepped up to help nearly 4,000 surviving dogs who were released and placed into loving homes.
A senior U.S. District Court judge has since permanently barred Envigo from breeding and raising dogs for sale or experimenting on animals at the Cumberland facility. Envigo’s parent company, Inotiv, announced last summer that it would close the facility.