One of Maine’s largest homegrown companies, the veterinary medicine powerhouse Idexx Laboratories, is continuing to operate in Russia as that country’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second month.

Idexx, based in Westbrook, had 18 staffers in its Moscow office before the invasion, according to a job ad description removed from the company’s website over the weekend. The office provided in-person sales, technical support, customer service and installation services to Russian customers, most of them presumably veterinary clinics using Idexx’s diagnostic equipment on dogs, cats and other pets. Before the invasion, the company also was hiring personnel to expand its water testing business in the country. Idexx also sells diagnostic services for industrial-scale poultry farms, but it is unclear if they do so in Russia.

Idexx declined to speak to the Press Herald about the company’s decision to maintain operations in Russia while 450 other firms had left the country over its unprovoked attack of its southern neighbor. The invasion has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, the destruction of large parts of several cities, and forced an estimated 10.3 million Ukrainians from their homes.

The company provided a written statement, but did not respond to questions about what services it supplies there, whether it still had any U.S. citizens posted there or how the company has ensured it is following U.S. sanctions requirements.

“The war in Ukraine is devastating for people and their pets in the region,” the company said in the statement provided by its spokesperson, Stefanie Tucker. “These events are deeply heartbreaking for all of us at Idexx and our primary focus continues to be the safety of our colleagues and associates in the region.”

The company said it was helping veterinarians provide essential care to pets. “This is even more important in a time of crisis,” the statement said. “While we have limited operations in Russia, we are focusing on supporting existing veterinary customers so that they can offer vital healthcare services to pets while complying with all applicable sanctions.”


Richard Painter, a professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota Law School who served as former President George W. Bush’s chief ethics counsel, said Idexx’s legal and ethical position depends on what services they are still providing in Russia.

“Every company has to comply with the distinctions that have been imposed by the U.S. government (and decide) whether they want to go to additional lengths and pull out of the environment over there for ethical reasons, to respond to the need to bring Russia and Putin to bear,” Painter said. “Pets are not going to have much impact, but a lot of companies don’t want to assist Russian industry, including the food and agriculture industry, until this situation is resolved.”

Getting all U.S. personnel out of the country is the most important of all, Painter said. “What we are going to get are bogus arrests and Americans can get held hostage,” he said. “That would give Russia additional negotiating chips and leverage, which they may end up wanting to use to get sanctions lifted when this thing is over.”


Brian Berkey, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, agreed that Idexx’s ethical position depends on what services it is still engaged with in Russia, with pet care at the acceptable end of the scale, poultry farm services at the other, and water testing for utilities somewhere in between.

“At least in the veterinary dimension of this business, I don’t think there’s any moral obligation for them to stop providing those services in Russia for reasons that are not dissimilar to the reasons pharmaceutical companies should continue to supply lifesaving medications for humans in Russia,” Berkey said.


“But sometimes when what is at stake is important enough, it can be really important to firms to take really strong public actions that will be interpreted by the public as reflecting their values – and forgoing opportunities for profits is one way to show your commitment to the values at stake is genuine,” he said. “Sometimes, it can play some role in putting pressure on governments or whoever is being criticized, though I suspect Putin is not paying attention to what this company is doing.”

John Forrer, director of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility at the George Washington University School of Business, said that Idexx’s ethical position for its core pet care and diagnostics business was strengthened because, like medicines and medical supplies for humans, it could be regarded as a humanitarian necessity.

“I think that’s how most people who have pets would see it,” Forrer said. “It’s not like some funny little sidebar: Pets can be essential and most people like their pets more than they like people, so I think that’s a case where you can say, ‘We would do more harm than good by pulling out.’ ”


Idexx is a world leader in the veterinary diagnostics and software fields, with over $3.2 billion in revenue last year. In a 2016 presentation to potential investors, then president and CEO Jonathan Ayers said 83 percent of revenues came from companion pet care, a field that he noted had characteristics that allowed for rapid innovation, growth and profits.

“The veterinary industry is different than human healthcare in important, unique and attractive ways. We have no third-party payers. We have no FDA. We have no informed consent or HIPAA,” Ayers said, referring to federal privacy laws for human patients. “We can innovate much faster without those encumbering regulations and move faster in the veterinary market. It is a cash pay business and it is a business model which is pretty similar in that regard around the world. So we don’t really have these same issues in other countries either.”


According to a recent help wanted ad, Idexx had at least 18 staff in its Moscow office prior to the invasion, and they were focused on sales, marketing, and technical and customer support, and were responsible for installing and repairing equipment at customers’ facilities and training customers how to operate it.

Another recent ad sought a new business development manager to grow the company’s water testing line of business, conducted through a local distributor and focused on “public utilities and laboratories.” It said Idexx’s microbiology water testing – which detects coliforms, E. coli, and other biological contaminants – had been approved by Russian regulators on Jan. 1.

In its statement to the Press Herald, Idexx said it was supporting relief organizations working in Ukraine via its Idexx Foundation, including the International Medical Corps, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the World Central Kitchen, for whom Yarmouth chef Christian Hayes has been cooking meals at a field kitchen for Ukrainian refugees near the border crossing in the southeastern Polish town of Przemysl.

It also said the Idexx Foundation would match any employee donations made to these organizations “up to $150,000, until April 16.”

“We continue to monitor the situation to see how we can provide further support,” the statement concluded.

Another high-profile Maine firm, South Portland fuel payment services provider WEX, has continued its service contracts with Russian petroleum giant Lukoil’s North American subsidiary, whose filling stations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been subject to customer boycotts.

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