Hazel, a 6-year-old beagle, got scared her first night in foster care when she played with a toy and it squeaked. She had never seen a stuffed animal or a ball before. She was comfortable with water but was afraid of the tub during her first bath.
Hazel is one of more than 400 beagles that were released from a breeding facility in Virginia last week. Around 4,000 people in total are expected to be released to shelters, rescues, foster and adoptive families over the next two months.
The mass rescue comes after US authorities filed a lawsuit in federal court in May after inspections of the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Va., over the past two years , revealed several violations of federal regulations. Authorities found the beagles starving, sick, abused and, in some cases, dead. Many farm animals were to be used for research and testing. After inspections and appeals from lawmakers, a federal judge this month approved a plan to save beagles. This mobilized several relief organizations, dozens of volunteers and hundreds of potential owners who wanted to help.
Hazel took her first walk Tuesday under the care of Nikki Bunce, who is a first-time owner of the dog and her five puppies in West Bend, Wis. She said Hazel warmed up to cuddle during movie nights.
“It’s been so heartwarming to be able to be her first everything,” Ms. Bunce said.
Working to rescue, medically treat and relocate the dogs was a huge undertaking that required the help of vets, volunteers, drivers and dog lovers.
Envigo, a research organization that was acquired last year by Inotiv and works with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, said on its website that it breeds “healthy, well-socialized animals.”
On July 21, the Humane Society of the United States took 201 beagles, among the first to leave Envigo, to a center in Maryland, and about 230 more dogs went directly to rescue partners. Personal protective equipment workers removed the dogs from the vans and inspected them before taking them to the rehabilitation center.
Dogs were previously identified with tattoos inside their ears, which was how the breeding branded them. A puppy had the letters “ONE CJE” inside his left ear. Their foster and adoptive families are now naming them beyond these codes for the first time.
Before the court’s intervention, some of the dogs were likely destined to end up in testing facilities and die, said Kitty Block, chief executive and president of the Humane Society.
“They deserve to be on couches, walking their dog with you in the park,” Ms Block said.
Lindsay Hamrick, director of shelter outreach and engagement for the Humane Society, said pregnant dogs, nursing litters and dogs in need of medical attention were priorities for new homes. Those who have been rescued will undergo further veterinary examinations and have paperwork prepared so they can be adopted nationwide. The Humane Society said it plans to help rescue around 300 to 500 beagles a week until they are all settled.
After a few weeks of a normal, healthy routine, most dogs adjust well to new homes, Ms Hamrick said. But in some cases, dogs can take years to adjust to “normal life”, she said.
“Everything from how the grass feels to watching the cars go by, it’s all going to be a whole new experience for them,” Ms Hamrick said.
Of a group of 62 beagles in Wisconsin, all nine mothers, who grew to adulthood at the Envigo facility with little human interaction or play, were shy, said Angela Speed, vice president of communications. of the state Humane Society.
Two drivers transported the beagles in large vans – nine moms and their 53 puppies – from Maryland to Wisconsin, where 15 Milwaukee staff and volunteers received them and prepared them to go to foster homes that night- the.
“Their lives have been completely transformed,” Ms Speed said. “Animal lovers are stepping in to help, and that’s what makes this possible.”
A separate effort in Massachusetts took two large vehicles, a 20-plus hour drive and three drivers to take 75 beagles to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Massachusetts, said Mike Keiley, the organization’s executive director. Of those, 20 went to the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the other 55 are in the care of the shelter.
“We jumped at the chance to help with such a historic and significant case which I think really shines a light on a dark corner of animal welfare,” Mr Keiley said.
Besides the natural disasters that have displaced some dogs, Mr Keiley, who is also the adoption coordinator for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the rescue of the 4,000 beagles was the biggest he attended or heard of. The shelter said 800 people have contacted to inquire about adopting a member of this batch of puppies, all eight to 12 weeks old, or any additional puppies they house in the future.
“You would expect them to be scared of people, not trusting and really traumatised,” Mr Keiley said of the puppies. But that was not the case. “I’m really impressed with the resilience of animals coming out of some of the worst situations you can imagine,” he said.
Beagles should undergo state-specific medical care and vaccinations. In Massachusetts, that includes a quarantine period, PPE for caretakers, vaccinations, microchipping, antiparasitic treatment, and castration or sterilization, said Karina King, director of operations at the Dakin Humane Society.
So far, many of the company’s 20 beagles have diarrhea and one will have an eye surgically removed, Ms King said. The shelter will take care of many medical needs before the dogs are adopted, and anyone with persistent issues will go into foster homes until they can recover.
Ms King said interest in beagles was high at a time when animal shelters across the country were strained. Her shelter has responded to requests from Texans and Floridians wanting to travel to Massachusetts for a beagle, even though there are dogs ready for adoption in those states.
“If the story of these dogs resonates with you, it’s great if you can get one,” Ms King said. “But, if you’re not, there are so many other dogs that need your help.”
Nellie (named because she is a “Nervous Nellie”) was originally fostered by Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Virginia and adopted within 24 hours by Lauren and Trevor Kellogg in Washington, D.C. The two had done advocacy work against the animal testing and Envigo, Ms. Kellogg said.
Nellie, 2 years and 8 months, joined Beesly, almost 4 years old, another beagle rescued from animal experimentation, also shy and suspicious when he was adopted two and a half years ago. Ms Kellogg said she worked for a pharmaceutical company and adopted Beesly after the dog was part of an experiment run by her company.
After their release, the 21 dogs who were entrusted to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Virginia spent a “day at the spa,” said Sue Bell, the executive director. For the first time, they could run into a sunny yard to dry off after a bath.
“It used to be that when we took dogs in, I would look at the beagles in their outdoor kennels row after row and kind of have to apologize to them,” Ms Bell said. “This time I was able to look into the eyes of all those dogs and tell them we were coming back for them.”