Eight beagles rescued from Virginia facility now safe at shelter in Pittsburg

·5 min read

Aug. 6—PITTSBURG, Kan. — Eight beagles, including four newborn pups, are safe and secure inside a Southeast Kansas animal shelter after they and nearly 4,000 other dogs were rescued last month from a mass breeding laboratory in Virginia, sparing them a future of painful experimentation and testing.

No longer known by numbers — their "product numbers" are tattooed on the inside of the adult dogs' ears — the eight hounds now have names and, within a few weeks, will have new homes.

When the eight beagles arrived at the Pittsburg animal shelter on July 26, following a 16-hour, 1,075-mile journey, workers and volunteers who had gathered to greet them burst into tears.

"We all cried in here," said Jasmine Kyle, shelter director, "but it was a happy cry. They will never have to worry ever again about tube feeding, never have to worry about blood testing again — none of that."

The Southeast Kansas Humane Society was one of 15 shelters across the country that initially volunteered to step up and care for the malnourished and mistreated beagles. It's a partner shelter with the Humane Society of the United States, which spearheaded the beagle rescue.

"We're very proud that we can help them out," Kyle said.

She added that during the worst of the pandemic, to prevent struggling families from surrendering their dogs, the Humane Society of the United States donated pallets of food to the Southeast Kansas shelter, which in turn provided a free pet food pantry for area residents.

"We are going to do the best to our ability to help them out" and return the favor, Kyle said.

The rescued beagles include two adult males, 4-year-old Robert and 1-year-old Copper, and two adult females, 7-year-old Nellie and 3-year-old Daisy. Five weeks ago, Daisy had a litter of four puppies: Lavender, Rose, Marigold and Tulip.

"They're all in relatively good body condition," Kyle said.

The dogs will be tested next week for coccidian, which is treatable. After that, Robert, Copper and Nellie will be spayed and neutered. After a week's quarantine, those three beagles should be ready for adoption. Daisy and her pups will be up for new homes at a later date.

"These were not actively tested dogs," Kyle said. "A large portion of these 4,000 beagles came from the company's breeding facility," Kyle said. "The company, for the most part, bred them to be sold to other companies that used them for testing — pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food."

'Serious violations'

The removal of the beagles from the breeding facility, owned by a company called Envigo, came as the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in May, which outlined "serious and ongoing violations of the Animal Welfare Act," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia.

The beagles were routinely being killed rather than receiving veterinary treatment for minor injuries or illnesses, according to the complaint. Nursing mothers were denied food, and the food the dogs were given contained maggots, mold and feces. Over an eight-week period, 25 beagle puppies died of cold exposure, and some suffered from injuries when they were attacked by other dogs in overcrowded conditions, the complaint stated.

The Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, D.C., was tasked with the rescue operation.

"Finding partners who can make space and find homes for around 4,000 dogs in the summer — a time of year when animal shelters already are over capacity — will be a feat of epic proportions," said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a blog post on July 18. "We are ready to take on the challenge and are grateful to our rescue and shelter partners — a network of local rescue groups and shelters in communities throughout the country — whose dedicated efforts will make it possible for these dogs to find loving homes."

Block said in the post that the national organization will continue to work through legislative, regulatory and corporate efforts to end the use of animals in laboratory testing.

Kyle said she gets emotional thinking about what the beagles, who are being kept in a special room inside the Pittsburg shelter, may have gone through.

"When you go in there and see those dogs and how open they are to human compassion, it just breaks your hearts ... that they were lied to and abused like that," she said.

Beagles are known as one of gentlest and most kid-friendly breeds, which is why they make such good family pets. Unfortunately, their passive nature also makes them popular for medical experiments, Kyle said, "because they are easy to handle, very kind and gentle, with low testosterone levels — unfortunately."

The primary reason the Pittsburg shelter was able to receive beagles in the first place had to do with a fluke of rural nature — 90% of the dogs they care for are large breeds, Kyle said. When the call from the Humane Society of the United States came in, they had several open small kennels perfectly sized for beagles.

"If (the beagles) had been larger dogs, we would not have been able to help," Kyle said. However, "never in a million years did I think we would be picked for something like this."

It's the largest rescue operation the Pittsburg shelter has ever participated in, "but that just shows how great the need was," she said.