This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.

Laboratory Beagles looking at grass for the first time!

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.


And they’re out, loving the new smells!

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

Shannon (l) & volunteer Jill Ryther taking rescued Beagles for a ride in another first for the dogs

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 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

One of the many adoptable Beagles

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

Pick me!

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

Twitter: @BeagleFreedom


Facebook causes page:

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.

33 Responses to “Blog the Change: Cruelty-free Beagles”

  • Thanks for the wonderful coverage on this awful issue, Hilary. Shannon is an amazing advocate. Wow. Those Beagles finally get some good luck in their lives. I’m so glad to see it!

    And good for you on the delousing of your house when it comes to products tested on animals. We did that some time ago and are very careful about what we buy. has a good guide. Looking forward to Shannon’s too!

    Just a heads up. The video link doesn’t work. If you get it up and running again, I’ll stop back to see those sweet pups tomorrow.

    Thanks for Blogging the Change!

  • I’ve always wondered WHY they picked beagles for this task. Thanks for explaining that part of the story.

    • Roxanne, I always wondered about why Beagles were chosen, too. Apparently, their good nature and “compliance” are biggies in laboratories. They’re usually debarked, however, so as not to disturb the technicians–ironic, isn’t it?

  • Really fabulous post!! It’s a heartbreaking tale of what beagles, in particular, must go through… I applaud you for bringing light to some dirty little secrets.

    I was really “on top of the ball” with being cruelty-free for a long time but have become a little less vigilant about checking … thanks for reminding me to check on where my money is going and what exactly I’m supporting.

    I said it on my BTC blog for today, but dogs are so incredibly resilient. It’s just amazing what they can endure and how they can come back from such abuse/neglect/poor-socialization/etc. to be these brilliantly social animals and fabulous companions!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading, Tena! It’s hard to know all the products that come from companies that test on animals–there are also many sites justifying it. But I’m not buying their excuses any longer!

      I’ll check out your blog soon–lots to read, so many great causes. I so agree about resiliency–much more than humans, that’s for sure.

  • I’m not gonna lie – I have a terrible habit of intentionally avoiding depressing headlines, and while I had come across a headline or two on these beagles, I had avoided reading any actual articles. Until now. And thank you. It’s very sad and upsetting, but also one of those realities that should be faced and acknowledged – and assisted.

    • Jen, thank you for that feedback. Ironically, I had a tough time coming up with any headline that would work. I didn’t want it to sound too chipper, but I also didn’t want it to sound depressing for the reasons you mentioned! Thank you so much for finally reading about these Beagles–I think the more people know about the issue, the more these animals will be assisted.

  • Thanks very much for this post and for including a link to the companies info!

    -Chandra at Daley’s Dog Years

  • Thanks for writing about these sweet beagles. Theres just so much unnecessary testing on all kinds of animals.. its just heartbreaking.
    Most pet food companies test the food on pets hole din labs too.. I just wish we can someday have laws against using animals for any testing where alternatives are available.

    Chewie and Richa @

    • I could never figure out why they needed to test dog food in lab situations. Are they adding substances that may be poison? The labs should just make sure the dogs like it, and that it’s balanced! I know I’m being way too simplistic here. I think alternatives are available, but animals are disposable, in their minds.

  • Hi, I came to your blog via the Blog the Change 4 Animals blog. What happens to these beautiful dogs – and all the other animals – is heartbreaking beyond words. We do our best to buy cruelty-free as far as possible, which generally means avoiding products from all the large corporations!

    I haven’t met any ex-lab Beagles here in the UK, but I have seen monkeys who were taken from a lab and rehomed at a sanctuary. We saw them on a couple of visits, some months apart, and the change in them from the first to second was heartwarming.

    The Beagle Freedom Project sounds amazing. I think I watched the first video when it was still online, certainly one where ex-lab Beagles saw their first taste of freedom. My heart breaks for those who are still captive :-(

    Best wishes,


    • Yes, I first heard about the project when I watched their first video, too! The video I posted has the second group of rescue Beagles seeing ground for the first time, too, almost just as dramatic as the first nine rescued. Thanks for being cruelty-free! We can’t all be perfect, but we can be aware of what products we’re using and make an informed choice.

      You’re right about the monkeys. My heart breaks for them–so glad to hear that their lives improved. It’s good to know there are those who rescue these animals.

  • Such an important topic on which to raise awareness, thank you for sharing this information. Precious, precious video and a great reminder for us to check new products before we buy. And doesn’t hurt to check the usual ones too.

    • Thanks–and I so admire your blog post for BtC (and everything else)! Thanks for reading. Raising awareness is the first step for change…

  • I’m so inspired after reading your post and watching that video. I was in tears all the way through the video, it was just so touching to see how much the dogs wanted love, and how gentle everyone was with the dogs. I can’t adopt another dog now, but I will be sure to spread the word about this wonderful rescue and these beautiful dogs.
    Peggy Frezon

    • Thanks, Peggy! It was a tearjerking video, for sure. I sure hope these little guys get adopted to the right homes. I am considering a laboratory rescue for my next dog because of this organization. I think these Beagles, who are so people-pleasing, deserve great homes to make up for their suffering. Thank you for spreading the word!

      I love your book, BTW!

  • Hilary, thanks for this comprehensive post on this wonderful rescue project. I, like everyone, was very moved by the video. You provided some great background information on laboratory testing and why they use beagles. Thanks for highlighting this cause.

    • I had no idea why they used Beagles, nor did I understand why they were drooling so much in their crates. Turns out they were tested on some heavy duty drugs that causes excessive drooling, and that will take a long time to get those drugs out of their systems. During my research, I read that Pavlov implanted a device in his dogs to test how much they drooled when they saw food. The picture shown was awfully painful to see.

  • Thank you for this post. I’m glad that so see more than one blogger tackled this topic. It’s encouraging to learn that the movement against animal testing is regaining traction with groups like the Beagle Freedom Project.

    • Yes, I was glad to see that animal testing was covered by a few of the BtC bloggers, too! The more awareness, the better! Thanks for reading!

  • Amazing post, Hilary! Testing on animals sickens me. Surely there are more sophisticated ways to test products that do not harm, indeed torture, animals. My heart goes out to these canine souls and my hat and everything else is off to the wonderful people at the Beagle Freedom Project!

    • Thanks for reading and for your comments, Deborah! I hope that at least a few people have new awareness about animal testing now… and why it’s unnecessary in this day and age.

  • […] Testing.  I was excited to see that other Blog the Change participants—No Dog About It and Fang Shui Canines— also wrote about the cruelty of animal testing.  While our posts were diverse, covering […]

  • Rosana:

    Ainda bem que Deus coloca pessoas no caminho desses animais para resgatá-los. Até quando isso ainda vai acontecer, pq eles não fazem issas experiências com outros animais da mesma espécie que as deles?

    • Rosana, I only speak English, unfortunately. I got a friend to translate. Is this correct? “Thank god there are people concerned, interested in rescueing these animals. How long will this keep on going? Why not doing those experiences with animals of their same species?”

      You bring up a good question. Not sure of any of the answers, but I hope that as we aquire more technology, there won’t be any testing on animals–human or otherwise, soon.

  • I’m sorry that someone needs to document this, but I’m glad someone is. What an awful situation. I have struggled to find personal care products of decent quality from businesses that don’t test on animals. There are lists out there, but they never have any brands that seem to work for me. Very frustrating.

    • Yes, very frustrating. I can understand your dilemma! My hope is that pressuring companies to stop testing their products on animals will help get them to use other ways of “proving” that their products work well.

  • Madelyn Mower:

    Hi! Do you have any younger Beagles? Around 1-2 years old?

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