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May 31, 2013

Meet Murphy, a Beagle Used in Research

Murphy survived life in a laboratory and is now a pampered pet

  • Murphy, at Arlington National Cemetery, is a great traveler. Kristy LaLonde

  • With his adopter, Kristy. Kristy LaLonde

  • Murphy has learned to trust, despite a difficult beginning. Kristy LaLonde

  • Teasing his buddy, the family cat, Nubz. Kristy LaLonde

  • At first, Murphy was too scared to go in the backyard by himself. Kristy LaLonde

  • Relaxing with the family's other dog, Natalie. Kristy LaLonde

  • Enjoying the snow. Kristy LaLonde

  • A tattooed number on Murphy's ear is a reminder of what he endured. Kristy LaLonde

Tens of thousands of dogs are used in harmful research in the United States every year. Murphy is one of a small percentage who has ever left the laboratory alive.

His story began in September 2010, when Professional Laboratory and Research Services, Inc., an animal research laboratory in Corapeake, N.C., surrendered him and more than 200 other dogs and cats to local animal shelters.

The laboratory shut its doors shortly after serious animal welfare concerns were reported. Within a few weeks, the USDA began a formal investigation.

When Kristy LaLonde of Edenton, N.C., heard about the surrendered animals, she knew she wanted to help. She contacted a local animal shelter and arranged to go see a beagle named Murphy at his foster home.

Meeting Murphy

Murphy—a dog who had likely spent his entire life confined in a cage—trembled violently and hid when LaLonde, her husband, and her son approached him.

"It was heartbreaking," says LaLonde. "He had no spirit." Her son eventually coaxed him out of his hiding place and LaLonde picked him up. "He wrapped his paws around me and I just cried."

"We’re taking him home," her husband said. A few days later, just thirteen days after being removed from the laboratory, Murphy went home with his new family.

Inside the laboratory

Although the details of Murphy’s past are unknown, sources say that the laboratory where Murphy lived was contracted by pharmaceutical companies to test insecticides and other chemicals used in pet products, like flea and tick remedies. Dogs and cats were force-fed experimental compounds and chemicals were smeared onto the animals' skin for testing.

Whole new world

Murphy’s transition to his new life wasn’t easy. He was clearly traumatized by his experiences in the laboratory: He was deathly afraid of grass and wide open spaces, and it was months before he would go out into the back yard by himself. He nervously backed away when he was offered a dog treat for the first time, and easily became anxious.

"Everything was new to him. He was a creature of habit and if anything was different from normal or if something was moved—like his crate—he would pace," says LaLonde.

But LaLonde was determined to help Murphy overcome his fears. These days, although Murphy is still not, and may never be, a completely carefree pooch with no memories of his terrifying past, he has come a long way in the hands of a loving and patient family and continues to improve.

"He’s adapted so well to just being a normal dog. He’s very trusting now," says LaLonde. He’s become best friends with the family cat, Nubz, sleeps in LaLonde’s bed every night, and is a great traveler. "These animals have sacrificed," says LaLonde. "They are very special and deserve to be loved. He has definitely changed our lives."

View all "Faces of Animal Research" profiles »

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