This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.
Something special is happening in Hollywood on Sunday, July 24. Better than celebrity sightings. A rescue adoption day. But not just any rescue. This one is The Beagle Adoption Day.
Perhaps you remember the press and viral video of several scared Beagles, rescued from an animal laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project, walked on grass for the first time after being caged all their lives?
(The original video has been removed for legal purposes–the second rescue video is at the end of this post, which includes a set of new Beagles experiencing greenery for the first time ever.)
Sure, I’d heard horrific stories about animal testing for all sorts of products, from makeup to dog food, but seeing these debarked and muscle-atrophied Beagle cuties not have a clue as to what to do when confronted with space outside their cages, I had to do find out more.
Who’s making a change for animals?
Turns out, Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles Animal Rights Attorney and documentary filmmaker, got a call in December 2010 about nine Beagles who were being retired from a laboratory–and she had less than two days to pick them up. As the founder of the non-profit, ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education), which rescues homeless animals and focuses on educational initiatives, Shannon decided to act–and brought the first of that lab’s Beagles to freedom.
Wanting to do more for throw-away dogs, she started Beagle Freedom Project. “Working directly with laboratories, the Beagle Freedom Project is able to remove the retired Beagles so they can be placed in loving homes. All rescues are done legally with the cooperation of the facility.” She adds that labs offer almost zero chance of freedom. “They decide whether to free the dogs at last minute and we have about 48 hours to get there.”
These Beagles were lucky. The lab had completed testing (for cosmetic, household and pharmaceutical compounds) and agreed to
release the animals to Shannon rather than euthanize them. In general, however, when labs are done with the dogs, they’re killed. Plain and simple. The American Association For Laboratory Animal Science says that the animals “must be euthanized to obtain tissue for pathological evaluation and for use in in-vitro testing. Most often, they’re killed because they’re of no use to the laboratories.”
Shannon says that the Beagle Freedom Project is building relationships with different facilities. It has proven extremely difficult, as most of these place do not want us to rescue the dogs–it’s easier to kill them. However, we are not giving up! We plan to save as many as we can.”
Testing lab’s dirty little secrets
Let’s back up a bit. Why are dogs in laboratories in the first place? They’re often used in biomedical research, testing, and education. You may have used common products, such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, dog chow–you name it–that were tested on dogs. The Humane Society of the United States claims dogs are also commonly used as models for human diseases in cardiology, endocrinology, bone and joint studies, drugs, poisons, and other research that tends to be highly invasive. Beagles are mostly used because they’re considered gentle and easy to handle. And, these Beagles are “purpose-bred” in the U.S., which means class A breeders are licensed by the USDA to sell animals for research purposes–often at $800 per dog.
According to a recent KTLA.com article and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 70,000 dogs are being used in approximately 1,260 USDA-registered laboratory facilities annually, with appropriations for these laboratories somewhere in the $22,000,000 range.
But why don’t we know these facts? Shannon offers this explanation. “Companies that test keep it a secret. The facilities that test keep it as secret as they can, even though you are paying for it with your taxes. QUESTION where your money goes and what you buy and educate yourself before you buy something. Boycott products tested on animals. Write to those companies and tell them you will not purchase their products anymore until they stop the testing. The FDA does not require companies to test cosmetics or products on animals, but companies still do it to create a legal shield and because they are lazy.”
Cruelty-free living guides
Furthermore, Shannon says, “we are working on our own cruelty-free living guide to give to people so they can make informed choices, instead of purchasing products that might be tested on animals. We are making a comprehensive one that will be updated monthly online.” (In the meantime, here is a good guide of corporations that do test their products on animals, and those that don’t.) “This is part of a larger campaign for us. Of course, we love saving the individual dogs, yet this is about education and awareness and getting people to know and understand who their purchases impact, and to make a different choice. These companies thrive on sales. If people stop buying, then we will see fewer animals being abused.”
One of Shannon’s favorite things is getting responses from people “who hear about us, who did not know animal testing existed and throw away all of their animal-tested products.”
Are you in? That’s what I’m going to do for today’s “Be the Change”–making sure my household is entirely cruelty-free.
The importance of July 24th’s freedom adoption day
Adoptions! Please come–or at least take a look at the adoptable Beagles from Beagle Freedom Project
When: Sunday, July 24th from 11am-3pm
Where: Healthy Spot in West Hollywood, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069
Shannon indicates that it’s important that these dogs be seen by the general public so we can learn from them. “It’s one thing to tell people about the horrors of animal testing, but when they see their faces, they cannot help but listen and take it in. We also want to find perfect homes for these dogs.”
And yet, even though there are multiple applications for each dog, Beagle Freedom Project has to be “extremely careful about where we place them,” Shannon emphasizes. “These dogs are not like any other. They need special attention, they need constant companionship from another dog or dogs, so that they can learn how to be dogs, and they also need constant human companionship to learn about love and trust.”
Some common post-adoption issues in the dogs include possible housetraining setbacks, cautiousness in new environments, separation anxiety, car sickness, and the often seasonal or environmental allergies, depending on the tests to which they were subjected in the labs.
“People need to be willing to put in 100% and to deal with issues they may never have expected from a dog… They are just learning how to WALK. Their muscles are atrophied. They do not know the different between right and wrong. They cannot communicate
vocally because they have been de-barked.” (Many lab dogs are debarked so they won’t bother the technicians or other animals at night.)
The dogs don’t go home on adoption day. The potential adopters, after filling out an application, is rigorously screened. If all works out, the adopter signs not only pays an adoption fee and signs a tight contract, they must sign a supplement to be an ambassador for the cause.
That means adopters “must tell everyone they meet about their newly adopted Beagle, where he/she came from, and why it is so important to boycott certain products.”
Are you that special person?
The promised video!
Here’s the video I promised earlier. Get out your hankies!
Beagles running free–and look who’s up for adoption
Follow the Beagle Freedom Project
Facebook causes page: www.causes.com/causes/560350
Shannon Keith lives with three dogs and one cat. Chula, her 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was skin and bones and about to “pop a litter” when Shannon brought her home–the next day, Chula had 11 puppies. Amazingly, Keith found them all homes. Her Doxie/Chihuahua mix Samantha is also a pound puppy. Oliver, an American Staffordshire Terrier, had been left in a box with his umbilical cord. Grampa, the most recent rescue of the pack, is an 18-year-old black cat from a hoarding situation.