Last week, we completed the massive accomplishment of placing nearly 4,000 beagles with animal shelters and rescues across the country, where they can begin a new chapter of their lives: becoming beloved family members. The operation to remove these beagles from a breeding facility in Virginia that supplies animal testing labs is a historic moment in our work and a true testament to the collaborative power between local and national humane organizations.

We were tasked by the U.S. Department of Justice with removing these dogs following a lawsuit against Envigo RMS LLC, the facility’s owner, alleging that Envigo was failing to provide humane care and treatment to the dogs, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. That sounds pretty straightforward. But let me assure you that the logistics of transporting and caring for thousands of dogs was anything but simple, and it’s something we could never have accomplished without our unstoppable Animal Rescue Team and our collaboration with an incredible network of hundreds of independent shelter and rescue organizations. So, I want to take a moment to explain the significance of this special program.

Our Shelter and Rescue Partner program is a nationwide network of more than 400 independent shelters, rescues and other humane organizations that not only serve their own communities by working to keep pets and families together but also make space as they’re able for companion animals rescued by the Humane Society of the United States. In most cases, the HSUS uses its care and rehabilitation center in Maryland to triage animals from cruelty cases and disasters before partners transport them into their adoption programs. But in this case, with approximately 4,000 beagles and a desire to move the dogs out of the Envigo facility as quickly as possible, our partners stepped up in a major way. More than 120 shelter and rescue partners in 29 states used their transport vans and staff and volunteers to pick up the majority of the beagles directly from the Envigo facility, taking on the task of fulfilling the entirety of the dogs’ medical and behavioral needs before finding them homes.

A mama dog and her puppies removed from Envigo’s Cumberland, Virginia breeding facility play at the HSUS care and rehabilitation center in Maryland before being transferred to a shelter partner to find homes.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

This massive effort on behalf of these beagles represents just the latest instance of the incredible work our shelter and rescue partners do. I could cite example after example of the heroism these shelters make possible. I remember visiting the Mayfield-Graves Animal Shelter in Kentucky just after deadly tornadoes last year ravaged the area. And I remember specifically the dedication of the shelter staff who worked around the clock to care for scared and displaced animals. They were working for animals even though their lives had been impacted by the disaster, their own homes having suffered damage from the storms.

Last month, the Kentucky Humane Society went above and beyond by simultaneously transferring in shelter pets from a rural shelter impacted by severe flooding while still accepting beagles from Envigo into their adoption program.

And earlier this year, we received a call for assistance from law enforcement in Jasper, Texas, to place 10 emaciated pit bull-type dogs who were suffering from heartworm disease. Our partners at Operation Kindness stepped up to accept these dogs and, with financial assistance from the HSUS, began the long treatment plan to help them recover.

In addition to taking in animals, our shelter and rescue partners also help advance animal welfare in other ways: They collaborate with our state directors and campaign staff to advocate for local, state and federal policies for companion animals and their families; support shelter-to-shelter relationships by mentoring under-resourced shelters and rescues through providing guidance and professional development; and present on new, innovative ideas at our annual conference for animal welfare professionals and volunteers, Animal Care Expo, to help educate others in the field.

Our independent shelter and rescue partners are truly the foundation of so much incredible work for animals. With their help, animals from some of the most desperate and critical situations can make the journey to living in loving homes. They strengthen the shelter and rescue field and illustrate why collaboration in animal welfare is so important. And every time we need assistance to help find animals the homes they deserve, they answer the call.

We’re so grateful for all the support you give to our work, and we encourage you to get engaged locally as well. Help your local independent shelter or rescue by fostering, adopting, volunteering and donating. It is a community effort to help animals near and far, and only through the support of individuals like you can our partners step up to accept animals in need.

You can also make a donation to support our work and learn more about the use of animals in research.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.