CRO Inotiv agrees to record fine to resolve Virginia animal welfare case that involved 4,000 beagles

A clinical research company has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a record $35 million fine to resolve an animal welfare case that involved the seizure of more than 4,000 beagles in 2022.

Envigo RMS, which is now owned by Inotiv, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act, while another subsidiary, Envigo Global Services, also pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act, according to a Monday statement from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The $35 million fine is the largest fine ever levied in an Animal Welfare Act case, the DOJ said.

“Our nation’s animal welfare and clean water laws exist to prevent suffering and harm,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “That’s why we secured the transfer of thousands of beagles from Envigo’s Cumberland facility into adoption, and that’s why today’s plea agreement is so significant. The plea agreement includes the largest ever fine in an animal welfare case as well as heightened standards of care for facilities across the country.”

In 2022, Envigo handed over more than 4,000 beagles from the Cumberland facility to the Humane Society of the United States, which were ultimately adopted out. The U.S. filed suit against Envigo in May 2022 alleging that the company was failing to provide humane care and treatment to the thousands of animals at the Cumberland, Virginia, facility. The site ceased operations in September 2022.

“Envigo promoted a business culture that prioritized profit and convenience over following the law. This callous approach led to dire consequences: the inhumane treatment of animals and the contamination of our waterway,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh for the Western District of Virginia in a Monday statement.

“The historic monetary penalties and significant compliance measures as part of these guilty pleas send a clear message: every company, in every industry, must have compliance and corporate responsibility as a critical part of their business model.”

The plea agreement requires Envigo to serve three to five years of probation and pay a fine of $22 million, or $11 million for each violation. The remaining fines will go to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, the Humane Society and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Finally, the company will spend $7 million to improve its facilities and personnel.

“Today’s agreement will allow us to comprehensively resolve this matter, bringing to an end uncertainty around the investigation, and enabling the company to focus our full attention on providing our customers with the tools and solutions they need to conduct critical drug discovery and development efforts that are essential to saving human lives,” Inotiv said in a statement.