RICHMOND, Virginia – Flanked by beagles and legislators, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed five bills tightening regulations on dog and cat breeders, a reaction to dramatic reports at beagle breeder-for-medical-testing Envigo, but a full ban on breeding for testing faltered in February.
“This is an important signing ceremony. And it’s important because it signifies how we’re supposed to work together,” Youngkin said from the steps of the Executive Mansion on Monday. “Behind me represents a very diverse group of legislators, legislators that oftentimes find themselves on different sides of issues. And this particular set of circumstances brought people together to do the right thing, common ground, reaching across the aisle working constructively to get things done in a comprehensive way.”
Both the House of Delegates and the Senate unanimously passed several of Senator Bill Stanley’s (R-Franklin) bills on Monday and Tuesday to regulate dog breeders, the result of bipartisan work spurred by dramatic reports at a Virginia beagle-breeder-for-medical-testing Envigo. The bills are now headed to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk. An outright ban on the practice sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) is set to die in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee after being passed by the Senate. Oversight bills from Bosyko and Senator David Marsden (D-Fairfax) are also doomed in the same committee.
“I want to thank all of you for the hard work that y’all did. We had the Envigo incident and Senator Boysko, Senator Marsden, Senator [Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)], Senator [Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell)], Delegates [Rob Bell (R-Albemarle)] and [Bobby Orrock (R-Carolina)] worked very hard to make sure that we’re going to hold those people that breed dogs, especially beagles, for scientific purposes, accountable,” Stanley said.
In one of his floor-speech comedy routines, on Monday, Stanley exhorted senators to adopt beagles rescued from the facility. Stanley said that there were 480 beagles that were overbred during the pandemic and that Envigo was allowing them to be adopted instead of euthanized. Half of those have already been adopted.
The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee (SFAC) advanced a bill that would eliminate the state sales and use tax of 1.5 percent on groceries and personal hygiene products. In its Thursday meeting, the committee combined Senator Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax) SB 451, focused on the hygiene products, with bills from Senator Stephen Newman (R-Beford), Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), and Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) that included all groceries.
Seven legislators have introduced 11 animal welfare bills in the Virginia General Assembly after investigations by PETA and the USDA found troubling conditions at a Cumberland beagle breeder-for-research. A newly-published report of an October 2021 site visit to the Envigo facility lists violations including staff providing medication without veterinarian approval, dangerous kennels blamed for deaths of multiple puppies, and buildup of grime and feces. Poor record-keeping was blamed for untreated medical conditions, unrecorded deaths, and an inability to determine cause of death in other cases.
“There continue to be severe staffing shortages and currently there are approximately 32 employees at the facility, with only 17 staff members directly responsible for all husbandry, daily observations, and medical treatments for almost 5000 dogs,” the report states.
“Mortality records show that from 2 Aug 2021 to 3 Oct 2021, nine dogs […] were injured from having a body part (such as a limb or tail) pulled through the wall of the kennel by a dog in an adjacent kennel and bitten. The exact injuries varied in each case, however regardless of whether it was a minor or substantial injury, these nine dogs were subsequently euthanized. Dogs sustaining injuries from being pulled through the enclosure wall have experienced physical harm and unnecessary pain,” the report states.
Senator Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell) is seeking to repeal a requirement that Virginia school districts pass policies consistent with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students. Alongside policy debates about COVID-19, equity, and accelerated learning, the transgender policies were a major source of contention in 2021 as local school boards were forced to comply with state law — even when local officials didn’t agree with the policy.
“Senator Hackworth believes that education decisions are always best made when handled locally among those closest to the children and families served in those schools,” Hackworth Legislative Aide Tom Lester said in a statement to The Virginia Star.
A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers.
Governor Ralph Northam will sign a bill granting earned sentence credits to violent offenders and sexual predators. Certain inmates will be eligible to reduce their sentencing by up to fifty percent.
The bill, House Bill (HB) 5148, includes those sentenced for certain classifications of murder, rape, robbery, abduction, kidnapping, lynching, terrorism, domestic assault, strangulation, genital mutilation, child pornography, and stalking.