Fresh air, green grass, sunshine, and couch-time cuddles. Along with treats, toys, and ample amounts of affection, these are just a few aspects of a good life many families and their pampered pooches take for granted. For 65,000 other dogs in the United States, their world is confined to a stainless steel cage, with slated floors, housed separately inside rooms walled with cinderblocks and illuminated with those horrible overhead fluorescent lights. The smell of ammonia, urine, and fear is omnipresent. Their only reprieve is when a white gloved hand reaches in and takes them somewhere even worse. This is the experience of a laboratory research dog.
Theirs is a story rarely told and it is the mission of Beagle Freedom Project (www.beaglefreedomproject.org) to secure their rescues and champion their cause. Beagle Freedom Project is a three year old mission of the non-profit ARME (Animal Rescue Media and Education), and is named for the gentle breed of dog almost universally used by research laboratories.
Through painstaking negotiations with the 383 United States laboratories that use these dogs, Beagle Freedom Project has been able to save over 200 dogs so far and has even rescued 7 cats, 10 rabbits, 10 ponies, 4 pigs, and 2 goldfish from research laboratories. The organization has successfully placed them with loving, forever homes in 23 states!
Introducing these animals to the concept and luxury of freedom is a captivating yet bittersweet process unlike anything else. Beagle Freedom Project has a host of poignant videos capturing those first moments of a release on its website www.beaglefreedomproject.org and even the most hardened will well up at the sight of these dogs taking their first cautious steps onto the grass, meeting their lab cell-mates for the first time, their awestruck expressions at how big the world really is, and of course finally being able to soak up all the affection and atmosphere they have been so starved for.
These rescues and their stories of survival and resilience are the vehicle Beagle Freedom Project uses to provoke a public conversation about animal-testing and our ethical obligation towards these victims. The beagles and other animals are the living ambassadors to remind everyone that they are not just furry little test-tubes, but dogs no different than the ones 60 million American homes are shared with.
While Beagle Freedom Project makes no secret of its disagreement with animal-testing in general, it’s approach is to not start a debate with the research industry, but a conversation about finding a common-sense middle ground to work together to help some of these lab animals. This premise is the behind their signature piece of legislation the organization is sponsoring in California, Minnesota, and possibly New York for 2014.
The Beagle Freedom Bill would mandate that any tax-payer funded research institution that uses dogs and cats must first contact a rescue organization like Beagle Freedom Project to gives these animals a chance at a life instead of summarily euthanizing them as is the standard operating procedure. It is a simple, common-sense and compassionate idea that is gaining momentum.
What started three years ago as a pie in the sky idea, rescuing laboratory animals, has now become a public expectation. These dogs deserve better than a cold lonely death after all they endure for human drugs, cosmetics, and academic curiosities. Every dog deserves his day and thanks to Beagle Freedom Project, this is finally happening.
To learn more about this life-saving work, to get involved, and to offer to foster or adopt please visit www.beaglefreedomproject.org Donations are always needed and are tax-deductible.
Photo credit: Susan Weingartner