Animal welfare bills signed after VA dog breeder’s violations

VIRGINIA — Additional protections for animals were signed into law by Governor Glenn Youngkin on Monday following controversy over violations at a Virginia dog farm.

The bill signatures, dubbed the ‘beagle bills’, focus on the breeding of animals for experimentation after more than 70 violations were found at an Envigo beagle breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia. US Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have called for the facility’s license to be suspended after inspections by November 2021 and March 2022 found that the facility used “unnecessarily painful medical procedures” such as non-sedated euthanasia on dogs and puppies. The senators said the facility’s practices “result in distress, injury and death to dogs and puppies.”

The “Beagle Bills” garnered unanimous support in the Virginia General Assembly before being signed by Youngkin. The first pair of tickets, HB 1350 and SB 87, prohibits the sale of dogs or cats for experimental purposes by amending the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Act. A language update clarifies that a commercial dog dealer or breeder cannot sell dogs and cats for experimental purposes.

The law previously only included dogs and now includes cats. It also clarifies that any dealer, commercial breeder of dogs or cats includes a person or entity that breeds dogs or cats regulated under federal law as research animals. This change is intended to close a loophole to stop the sale of dogs or cats by breeders with certain violations of federal animal welfare law.

The legislation has an enactment clause, so changes to the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Act would not apply to citations until July 1, 2023.

“This historic package of bills that I signed today clarifies that dogs and cats bred and sold for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia animal cruelty law, will help ensure the standards of welfare and save lives, and will empower Virginia to take action when welfare violations occur,” Youngkin said.

Other legislation concerns experimentation and breeders. SB 88requires breeders to keep records of sales of animals sent to animal testing facilities. SB 90 adds breeders to a section of the code, requiring them to offer dogs and cats for adoption before euthanizing them. SB 604 aims to ensure that dogs and cats owned by breeders selling animals for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia animal cruelty laws. The previous wording exempted all research animals protected by federal law, but the amended wording exempts only animals in active experimentation.

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