Beagle Freedom Project Takes Wing
Innovative program finds safe haven for rescued beagles.
Freedom and Bigsby are both Beagles under the age of three, but it was only at the end of December when they took their first steps on grass.
It was at first a frightening, and then exhilarating experience for the male dogs, who had spent their entire lives in a California university research facility, serving as testing animals for products.
"It was the most emotional experience of my life just to see these beautiful souls see the sun for the first time in their lives, and take a step outside their crates," said Shannon Keith, an animal rights lawyer who participated in the rescue of the dogs.
Readers can also watch the rescue and its aftermath on YouTube, in a video that is quickly gaining traction in viewership. "The video was edited down, but it actually took the dogs around 15 minutes to leave their crates, they were just so afraid of the outside world and trying to walk on the grass," Keith said of the dogs' first moments of freedom, as documented by the video.
Keith, the founder of the southern California-based animal advocacy group Animal Rescue, Media & Education, or ARME, heard that the facility, whose name she declined to say, was releasing 12 of its testing dogs. The dogs were originally going to be killed over the holiday season in December, since no staff member at the facility wanted to stay on and take care of the animals during their time off.
"Someone working there convinced the center to let the dogs go and we said we would take a couple of them and a Beagle rescue group took the other ten," Keith said.
All 12 dogs are boys, and Keith suspects that the testing facility performs some kind of testing related specifically to males.
The years inside the facility took their toll on the young dogs, which can be seen in the video cowering and rolling over submissively when a person gets too close, and backing away from a towel, apparently holding some sort of connotation to their past.
Since the documented day of their first time running free around a grassy lawn -- their dull eyes suddenly bright -- Freedom and Bigsby continue to learn how to be dogs, Keith says.
They both live with families in California and share their homes with cats.
"It's like a newborn puppy -- they don't know right from wrong, how to communicate," Keith said. "They can't bark [the Beagles have been de-vocalized], and the only interaction they have with humans has been to offer their paws for blood."
The dogs were initially afraid of their own houses and wouldn't enter through doorways, walk up stairs or eat out of dog bowls. But they are both continuing to adapt to their new lives. The long-term consequences of their time spent in a research center are less clear, Keith says, as their medical histories are unknown and it is possible that the dogs might develop cancer or some sort of illnesses at a certain point in life.
Potential adopters are all alerted to this possibility, but that hasn't stopped people from reaching out and wanting to take in another Beagle -- thought to be an ideal testing dog because of the docile temperament and average size -- as Keith and her animal advocacy friends and colleagues continue to rescue more dogs.
Since receiving word of the potential to rescue Bigsby and Freedom, Keith founded the Beagle Freedom Project, a mission of her group ARME with the focus of rescuing and rehoming Beagles used for testing of household, cosmetic and medical products.
The Beagle Freedom Project is expecting another rescue mission from Bigsby and Freedom's former facility at the end of January. The group has also heard from other facilities that say it will keep the new organization in mind when they next anticipate releasing dogs.
What do you think about the Beagle Freedom Project? Have you heard about similar initiatives? Let us know in the comments!
5 years ago
This is an extremely wonderful program. The least these dogs are owed after being in a cage their entire lives and never seeing or feeling sunlight, but instead having life be one of being continually experimented.
How cruel it would be to kill Bigsby, Freedom and all the other beagles after depriving them of everything that is natural to dogs and making them ingest household products, cosmetics and drugs.
Also, it is particularly sad that beagles are the dog of choice for research because they are so loving and friendly. That is such a betrayal. Operation Beagle Rescue at least lets some of these dogs know what it is to be allowed to behave like a dog and hopefully to love and be loved.
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