Watch Freedom and Bigsby's first-ever romp in the sunshine (tear-jerk warning in full effect):
Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles attorney and founder of the nonprofit animal advocacy group, Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME), received a call in December tipping her off to news that some beagles were being retired from a research lab. These dogs, bred exclusively for animal testing, had lived in the lab nearly their entire lives had never felt the rays of the sun or grass under their feet.
Shannon Keith, Beagle Freedom Project founder, with Freedom and Bigsy.
Keith gathered a few of her friends and came to the aid of the two young dogs, who they named Freedom (1 1/2) and Bigsby (2 1/2), and the Beagle Freedom Project was born. The organization is dedicated to rescuing and finding homes for beagles used in laboratory research. It hopes to encourage more research labs to release their animals and give these potentially adoptable pets a chance at life, rather than needlessly destroying them.
Beagles are the most popular breed for testing pharmaceuticals, household products and cosmetics because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving and people-pleasing personalities. The research industry says they adapt well to living in a cage and are inexpensive to feed. Research beagles are usually obtained directly from commercial breeders who specifically breed dogs to sell (for a pretty penny) to scientific institutions.
When the dogs are no longer wanted for research purposes, many labs simply kill those that have survived (depending on the nature of the experiments). But some attempt to give them a chance at a normal life by finding homes for those dogs that are deemed adoptable and healthy.
In the case of Freedom and Bigsby, the holidays were approaching and labs typically kill their animals just before the end of December since no one wants to stay and care for them. "Not only is this a horrific practice, but is also wasteful in so many ways," says Keith. "Often the experiments that these dogs were subjected to have not concluded, and the new batch coming in will need to start from scratch."
Working directly with labs, the Beagle Freedom Project is able to remove the retired beagles so they can be placed in loving homes. All rescues are done legally with the cooperation of the facility.
Freedom was recently adopted and lives in Glendale, California. Bigsby is being fostered in Studio City, but is still looking for his forever home. The same lab where they came from recently informed Keith that more beagles will soon be retired.
If you are interested in fostering or adopting a lab beagle, be aware that they come with some unique challenges. They will not be accustomed to life in a home and will not have experience with children, cats or other dogs. They will not be house-trained and accidents will happen (although they will learn quickly). Many have gone directly from a commercial breeder to the lab, and have never felt grass under their feet or even seen the sun. They will have been fed a special diet formulated for lab animals and may have difficulty adjusting to new foods. They will be unfamiliar with treats, toys, bedding and may never have walked on a leash. They will have lived in cages with steel wire floors and may have inflamed or infected paws. They may be initially fearful of people and may have other phobias from a lifetime of complete confinement. They are likely to have been surgically "de-barked" by the breeder and have an ID number tattooed in their ear. Although these beagles are considered healthy, very little information is disclosed about their origin, medical history or what kind of testing they were used for.
With time, patience, play, companionship — and most of all, love — these dogs will embrace their new-found freedom and learn how to become dogs. Just watch the video. Their transformation is nothing short of amazing.
The Beagle Freedom Project needs volunteers, sponsors, fosters, adopters and donations. For more information and to get involved click here.
Please, PLEASE buy products that are labeled "cruelty free" and "not tested on animals." Just like so many tuna fish cans are now stamped with the "dolphin-safe" seal of approval, it's time we advocate for the beagle equivalent on household cleaners, cosmetics and common pharmaceuticals.
Hamadi, one of my favorite haircare brands, proclaims that its products are "Tested on actresses, never on animals." I like the sound of that.
Posted By: Amelia Glynn (Email, Facebook) | January 20 2011 at 03:50 PM
Here is a list from PETA of companies that don't test on animals. So sad that anyone is still doing this.