Senator Boysko’s Dogged Determination Helps Rescue 4,000 Beagles from Virginia Breeding Facility

The largest animal rescue operation in Humane Society history

When Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko first learned about the appalling conditions thousands of beagles were enduring at the Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, she knew she had to act. But little did she know that her efforts would culminate in the largest animal rescue operation in Humane Society history.

The road to this extraordinary rescue was fraught with challenges. Drone footage from 2019 led PETA to file a Freedom of Information Act request on the breeding facility, which in turn uncovered shocking photos and video from a 2017 USDA inspection. Undercover investigations by PETA in 2021 revealed ongoing cruelty at the facility, which bred beagles destined for medical research. Dogs were confined to small, filthy kennels without bedding; nursing mothers were deprived of food; and puppies were cruelly tattooed without anesthesia and even died from treatable wounds. Hundreds of puppies perished from unknown causes.

Dogged Determination

Despite the disturbing evidence, Boysko initially faced legislative setbacks in her mission to protect the Envigo beagles. A 2020 bill she sponsored with Sen. Bill Stanley that would have prohibited breeding dogs and cats for research in Virginia was swiftly killed. Undeterred, Boysko continued pushing for stronger animal welfare laws.

Her persistence paid off in 2022 when the Virginia legislature unanimously passed a series of “beagle bills” that strengthened oversight of breeding facilities like Envigo. The bipartisan bills, championed by Boysko, were crucial in prompting federal authorities to take action against Envigo for dozens of animal welfare violations.

“Virginia has been responsible for ignoring this mess for a long time, and we are not going to leave that stain on the commonwealth,” Boysko declared as the bills advanced.

In May 2022, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors seized 446 dogs and puppies found to be in “acute distress” at the Cumberland facility. Two months later, a federal judge approved a plan for the Humane Society to remove all 4,000 surviving beagles and coordinate their adoption – the largest animal rescue in Humane Society history.

The plight of the Envigo beagles garnered national attention, even attracting the notice of the British royal family – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle adopted one of the rescued dogs.

But for Boysko and other advocates, the most rewarding outcome is seeing these resilient animals get a chance to experience life as a cherished pet after enduring such harrowing conditions.

Daphna Nachminovitch, Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations at PETA, hailed Boysko as a hero for the beagles. “Senator Boysko was relentless in her efforts over several years to expose the shocking mistreatment at Envigo,” Nachminovitch said. “Her compassion and resolve were absolutely crucial in bringing about this incredible rescue operation. For Boysko, who attended a welcome event for a group of rescued beagles at a northern Virginia animal shelter, seeing the dogs get a chance at a better life has made the arduous legislative journey worthwhile.

“To know that these sweet dogs will get to have the lives they deserve and not languish in cages for the rest of their lives is just so rewarding,” Boysko said, watching as the once downtrodden beagles experienced grass and loving human touch for the first time.

Thanks to Boysko’s dogged determination, 4,000 innocent beagles are getting the happy endings they so richly deserve – a heartening triumph over cruelty that showcases the power of persistence and compassion.

Scroll to Top