It’s hard to fathom just how many little beings the phrase “roughly 4,000 beagles” represents, which is why we were so very happy to help these souls recently spared from life in a laboratory.

Charlie is just one of the beagles bred for a sad fate. He was brought into the world at a breeding facility belonging to a company called Envigo RMS LLC in Cumberland, Virginia. This breeding facility supplied dogs as animal test subjects for laboratories. But after government inspectors documented multiple alleged Animal Welfare Act violations on site there, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit that resulted in Charlie, along with some 4,000 others, being transferred into the care of our team and our network of independent shelter and rescue partners.

Here's Charlie getting his first loving ear rubs from one of our team members:

But things could have gone another way for Charlie.

Life in a laboratory

If all had gone according to plan, Charlie would almost certainly have been sold to a laboratory, likely when he was still a puppy. If the lab were tasked with testing the safety of drugs or chemicals such as weed killers or other pesticides, those substances may have been concealed in his food or force-fed to him, every day for months, so observers could monitor his reactions, which could include convulsions, vomiting and lethargy. Finally, if he didn’t die from those doses, Charlie would likely have been killed so that his tissues and organs could be examined. Testing like this continues on dogs like Charlie, even though organ-on-chip technologies, 3D printing, organoids, computational toxicology and other alternatives to animal testing are available now. These alternatives are not only more humane but more reliable than antiquated animal tests.

If Charlie ended up at a lab that was tasked with testing medical devices, such as heart devices or pumps, he could have been implanted with the device, perhaps even had a heart attack induced, and then been forced to run on treadmills to see how the device is working. Typically, these dogs are also killed after the test period is over. It's unfathomable that this continues when newer, safer, non-animal methods for testing are available.

Dogs are also used in many types of biomedical experiments, including those involving cardiac, neurological, respiratory and dental research. Although this was not the case for Charlie, some dogs may be specially bred to have a fatal disease, such as muscular dystrophy. In other cases, healthy dogs will be operated on to give them symptoms of a serious condition such as heart disease, or to remove or damage some of their organs in preparation for further experiments. They are also typically killed after the research is over.

All of these animal testing methods are legal and, despite animal testing often being inaccurate and antiquated, even sometimes still required. Charlie’s life in a lab wouldn’t have been much of a life at all. We are honored that we have been able to coordinate this massive and historic effort to find Charlie and thousands of other dogs bred at Envigo for animal testing homes through our many shelter and rescue partners.

A brief history of our work to help animals in animal testing

During the first transfer of a few hundred beagles to our care and rehabilitation center in Maryland, I was on hand to help welcome them into a new and beautiful chapter of their lives. As we unloaded pups from the transport van, the scale of this operation became more concrete: Our staffers emerged from the van over and over with literally armfuls of young beagles. 

This transfer of these beagles is a milestone in a fight we’ve been waging for years. We’ve been persistent in our fight to pass laws that end cosmetics animal testing, something that more than 40 countries around the world have already done. While dogs aren’t used for cosmetics testing, testing of cosmetics and personal care products affects many other animals, specifically rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice. We believe this is long overdue for change. We have played a key role in laws banning the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia with a bill awaiting governor action in New York. At the federal level, we have been unflinching in our support for and promotion of the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would ban the manufacture and sale of animal-tested cosmetics nationwide.

We have also tried to change the lives of dogs used in animal research by advocating for adoption bills that would, rather than ending their lives, give former test subjects a chance to live as pets after their trials in the laboratory are over. We and other animal protection organizations have successfully passed 15 of these laws at the state level, and have, as a result, made a world of difference for the animals impacted. But the only way to stop the cruelty is to end animal testing.

We need a paradigm shift for animals used in labs—and you can help

There’s only one way to ensure a more humane future for dogs and other animals used in animal experimentation, and that is to end animal testing for good. With the remarkable advances in technology that we as a society now enjoy in pretty much every other sphere of innovation, it’s unthinkable that such a paradigm shift has not occurred on a larger scale for research laboratories, where thousands of animals like Charlie are brought in every year just to be used as little more than test-tubes and then, when their usefulness expires, killed off. It’s time to make history and do away with animal testing for good.

You can urge the Food and Drug Administration to stop relying on outdated animal testing, including on dogs, and to make a much stronger commitment to funding, developing and accepting non-animal test methods. You can also contact your legislators about passing the Humane Cosmetics Act. And you can make a donation to support our work to help these beagles, end animal testing and fight for all other animals in need.

Charlie was transported to our care center in Maryland and then quickly picked up by one of our shelter and rescue partners to begin his new life. Transporting roughly 4,000 dogs is a monumental undertaking and our partners are not only accepting dogs into their adoption programs but often, help us transport them to partners in their area. In Charlie’s case, staff from Northeast Animal Shelter drove from Massachusetts and dropped him off with the Dakin Humane Society along with 19 of his friends while another 54 young puppies were adopted through their program. To date, over 50 shelters and rescues have stepped up to help 2,038 dogs find loving homes.

With the help of the Dakin Humane Society, Charlie will hopefully soon be curling up and falling asleep on the laps of his adoptive family members. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead for him. If you are interested in adopting one of the beagles, take a look at our growing list of partners that are accepting the beagles into their adoption programs.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.