The Foundation for Biomedical Research, located in Washington DC, estimates that there are 60,000 dogs in research facilities in the United States. (The Foundation advocates for ethical treatment of animals used in research.)
The beagle is commonly chosen as a research subject because of its size and temperament.
Unfortunately for the dogs involved in research, most facilities do not re-home the dogs after their ‘useful’ period has passed. Most are euthanised. One reason for this is that the facilities who conduct research involving dogs do not wish to be identified, for fear that they are targeted by activists who publicise their use of the dogs. In extreme cases, activists have been known to break into the facilities to release the dogs.
Some animal welfare agencies work behind the scenes to find ways to receive these dogs and find them new homes, also protecting the anonymity of the laboratories so they are encouraged to re-home more dogs in the future. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story last week of one such re-homing effort involving nine beagles.
Re-homing an ex-laboratory dog is not always easy. Most of these dogs have never been outside and have never been housebroken because they spend their lives in a crate or cage. In the cases of these beagles, they were also de-barked (vocal chords were intentionally cut) to reduce noise in the laboratory.
The June re-homing exercise was the second for the Beagle Freedom Project, which mounted this wonderful video on YouTube of the rescue:
In future blog postings, I will provide some more information about dogs used in research and the points of view about whether or not the experimentation on them is essential. This is a major animal welfare issue and one that will not go away quickly as the world seeks to develop new treatments for human diseases and disorders.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand