Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a very special kind of reunion at Bark Social, a club for dogs and dog-loving people in Maryland. The guests of honor at this ”Beagleversary” event were some of the nearly 4,000 beagles spared from a terrible fate a year ago and the families who had adopted them, as well as other beagles rescued from the research industry.

As you probably remember, last summer we undertook a historic operation to remove the beagles from a now-closed breeding facility owned by Envigo, placing them with over 120 shelter and rescue partners for adoption into loving homes. This transfer was the result of the U.S. Department of Justice suing Envigo after government inspectors documented numerous Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility, such as inadequate veterinary care and inhumane euthanasia practices.

As thousands of people celebrated the first anniversary of adopting their beagles, we wanted to do something special to commemorate the first year these beagles enjoyed with their families.

At the reunion, a dog named Ginny eagerly accepted ear scratches from our staff members and looked on as a group of younger beagles played chase. These younger dogs were just tiny puppies a year ago, when our Animal Rescue Team responders carried them to the transport trucks, the first step to bring them into their new lives as pets, rather than animal testing subjects.

Ginny spent her first seven years at the Envigo facility. She was forced to breed litter after litter of puppies, most of whom were sold to laboratories. Her adopter said it took some time for Ginny to get used to grass, but now spending time outdoors is one of her favorite things, next to carrying her favorite toy—a plush beagle—around in her mouth between snuggle sessions.

Ginny happily receives pats from Kitty Block and other HSUS staff members at the “Beagleversary" event at Bark Social.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

In attendance, too, were some of my HSUS colleagues who helped to remove the dogs from the breeding facility last summer. I will never forget helping our rescue team carry the dogs off the transport trucks into our care last year. As we watched the dogs at the club play with each other and then bounce back over to their families to check in, their lightheartedness and joy stood in stark contrast to our memories of the timid dogs we had seen just after their release from the breeding facility.

For dogs born into facilities like this, the day they leave is often the beginning of even more suffering in laboratories. Nearly 60,000 dogs are used in experiments each year in the U.S., and tens of thousands more are held in laboratory breeding facilities. The only way to ensure a more humane future for dogs and other animals used in testing labs is to replace animal testing with advanced technological alternatives.

As for the Envigo beagles, I am so grateful to our shelter and rescue partners who helped to ensure their adoption and to the families who gave these dogs the lives they deserve. It was such an honor to be able to see a glimpse of their happy new lives in person. Their joy is a testament to the kind of change we can make for so many animals.

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.