For some of us the big “Bowl” this coming weekend is not “Super,” it's “Puppy.” Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl XIX will air before the Super Bowl and feature more than 100 shelter and rescue dogs from across the U.S., many of them already adopted into loving homes and some still waiting for families. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a Puppy Bowl, the event, which promotes adoption, mimics a football game with puppies joyfully frolicking inside a model stadium, and this year’s is especially meaningful for me because of the inclusion of two dogs: Allison and Briscoe, a pair of “Envigo” beagles.
Allison and Briscoe are just two of 3,776 dogs our team transferred from Envigo RMS’s Cumberland Virginia breeding facility, which supplied beagles to animal testing laboratories as test subjects. This historic mission was the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that described shocking violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the facility. Our team was tasked with the massive feat of helping these dogs, facilitating their transfer to more than 120 of our shelter and rescue partners around the country for them to be adopted into loving homes.
Green Dogs Unleashed in Troy, Virginia, accepted Allison along with her mom and six of her siblings, and the Virginia Beach SPCA took in Briscoe as part of a group of 17 Envigo beagles. And since being selected for the Puppy Bowl, happily, both Allison and Briscoe have been adopted.
It’s remarkable to reflect on how Allison, Briscoe and all the Envigo beagles have helped to put the issue of animal testing in the national and international spotlight. Each beagle transferred from Envigo represented a life spared from the animal testing industry. Many of these beagles were destined for life in a laboratory, where they may have been subjected to painful tests like being force-fed chemicals every day for months so that observers can monitor their reactions, which could include convulsions, vomiting and lethargy, and ultimately dying or being killed.
It's hard to even think about such animal testing continuing on tens of thousands of beagles in the U.S. every year, even though organ-on-chip technologies, 3D printing, organoids, computational toxicology and other alternatives that are more humane and more reliable are available now and only continue to advance. That is why, as part of a U.S. federal spending bill last year, we helped to secure $5 million within the Food and Drug Administration’s budget specifically for nonanimal methods; we are also intensifying our efforts to end testing on dogs, with legislation anticipated in more than 10 states to curtail the use of dogs and other animals in experiments or protect them from being bred for that purpose.
I will never forget carrying the first beagle off the transport van and into our care and rehabilitation center in Maryland in late July last year, when this massive undertaking first began. I watched as members of our team, one after another, kept going into the vans and coming out with literal armfuls of beagles spared from lives of suffering.
It’s a cause for celebration that these beagles are getting the chance to live full and loving lives and that the Puppy Bowl is promoting the adoption of shelter pets—there are so many waiting for homes. It’s also immensely heartening to see how far Allison, Briscoe and so many of the other Envigo beagles have come. But it’s also a reminder that our society has a long way to go.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.