Thanks to the quick action of a newly formed animal activist group, nine beagles that have spent their lives inside a university research lab in Northern California landed in the arms of animal loving foster families on Wednesday evening.
The 6 females and 3 males who ranged in age from 2 – 5 years old were specifically bred for use in the research lab. The facility agreed to release the dogs after they were no longer needed for testing.
That’s when the Beagle Freedom Project jumped into action to rescue the beagles and bring them back to their headquarters outside Los Angeles. The organization which began in December 2010 by attorney Shannon Keith had only a few days to respond to the university’s offer before the dogs would be euthanized.
When the dogs arrived, their crates were lined in a circle in a fenced yard while well-wishers and foster families watched from the opposite side.
Ms. Keith told the Public News Service, “The beagles aren’t sure how to handle their new freedom. They stayed in their crates for 15 minutes before they actually took a step outside onto the grass. They were so scared. They had no idea what to do. So, it’s bittersweet. We’re all crying, but we’re smiling at the same time.”
Finally the dogs ventured out of the crates and began wagging their tails. It was the first time any of them had been outdoors or walked on grass.
The foster families will now begin the process of socializing the beagles and getting them ready to be adopted into permanent homes. They will teach the dogs everything from walking on a leash to playing catch.
In many cases the foster parents will also teach the beagles new ways to communicate with their guardians because most have been de-barked and can’t express their needs like a normal dog.
“Beagles are the most common type of dog used in research when larger animals than mice or rats are needed,” said Martin Stephens, vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States. “More of them are being rescued, he says, although the cases are rarely publicized.”
More than 67,000 canines are used in U.S. research labs every year.
The Beagle Freedom Project is part of Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME) whose mission is to “eliminate the suffering of all animals.” Shannon Keith is the founder and president of the organization. As an attorney Keith also represents animal rights activists in the courtroom, defends dogs on death row, and prosecutes animal abusers.
The Beagle Freedom Project is one of just a handful of animal activist organizations that focus on rescuing dogs released from research labs.
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