“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
You may not know it, but you might have a beagle to thank for the medicines you take. In 2010, approximately 65,000 beagles were used in biomedical research—mainly for safety testing of human and veterinary medicines.
Why do you have a Lab to Leash Division?
In 2005, Carolyn Sterner and Pattie Scully were given the opportunity to assist a research facility with the first-of-its kind release and adoption of their retiring research beagles. The laboratory was ending a study and had some wonderful dogs available. The idea of euthanizing them was not something this lab wanted for the dogs, but their options were unclear. We saw first-hand the distrust of the research facility for an outside organization like a “rescue” to become involved with the inner workings of a research facility. We also saw the public reactions and misconceptions about how these dogs have been treated, and whether or not they would (and could) make good pets. We worked with the research facility and we all (researchers and rescuers) were thrilled that we were successful in placing these initial 11 special beagles in wonderful homes.
That exchange sparked an effort to change views on both sides! The foundation was then laid for the Lab to Leash Division and the subsequent relationships with over 12 (and counting) research facilities and over 200 (and counting) laboratory retirees!
Nearly eight years later, thanks to public outreach, education, conference attendance and presentations to the biomedical research community (much as the Laboratory Beagle Adoption Division of Cascade Beagle Rescue-East), the Lab to Leash Division is proud to continue its work with research facilities and we hope to continue broadening our working relationships with “labs” to accept research beagles for adoption. We have worked with over 12 research facilities and have accepted over 200 (and counting) research beagles.
There are so many beagles being euthanized every day in shelters. How can you save these beagles when there are others dying in shelters every day?
If a beagle is going to be euthanized, should the source really matter? Not to us. A healthy, adoptable beagle being euthanized in a laboratory because it is no longer needed in a research study is no different to us than a healthy, adoptable beagle being euthanized in a shelter due to overpopulation. Both scenarios are tragic. We do our part to help all beagles in danger of euthanasia, regardless of where this might take place. People will sadly continue to surrender their dogs to shelters, stray dogs will continue to need a place to go, and biomedical research using beagles will continue regardless of whether BRL helps these beagles or not. We choose to help.
Aren’t research animals abused, neglected and mistreated? I’ve seen some horrifying videos and cannot understand why you would cooperate with any such facility!
This is where our education component comes in. Yes, we have seen those videos, too, and have been appalled by them. The research facilities we work with have seen them as well – and they share our feelings. But, when we see the horrible stories on the news about an abused child in the foster care system, we cannot assume that every foster parent is an abuser, or that every child suffers horribly. The same holds true for the experiences of our beagles.
We have not found the horrible video footage and stories out there to be accurate at the facilities with which we work. From our experiences, this type of treatment is not the norm. Why? Dogs are a regulated species under the federal Animal Welfare Act, and laboratories which use beagles in research are inspected by the USDA. Reputable laboratories also follow additional safeguards and protections by following the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, guidelines from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), and their own IACUC policies for ensuring the humane care of laboratory animals. All facilities that BRL works with have their AAALAC accreditation and all seem quite proud of their release and adoption programs. BRL maintains the confidentiality of all research facilities.
I didn’t realize that animal research was still done, or that beagles were even used in research! Where can I learn more information?
Research using animals is currently legal, protected and required by the federal government. BRL does not play into hype, misinformation, overdramatization, etc. BRL does not have any agenda other than helping laboratory beagles in a positive and cooperative manner. You will find a lot of information out there about this topic. We feel the most factual, hype-free information is available at here. (Thank you to Johns Hopkins University for this information.)
Where do the laboratories get their beagles?
All of the beagles BRL receives from research facilities are purpose-bred. This means these dogs were bred and purchased specifically for research. They are not someone’s former pet, and they had never previously been in a shelter.
Why are beagles (vs. other breeds) used in research, and what is done to them while they are there?
Beagles are used for the the same reasons that they make good pets. They are small, relatively easy to care for, adaptable, and tend to have wonderful temperaments and dispositions. Each laboratory does different research, so beagles help in a variety of studies. Many studies that use beagles are relatively benign. Look at the packet insert on your latest prescription, and see how a beagle may have helped determine its safety or dosing. Before your own pet receives a vaccination, you can bet a beagle helped in that vaccine’s development. Beagles are often used in biomedical research for the study of various diseases such as diabetes and cancer. That new medication for Alzheimer’s disease? Yes – likely tested on a beagle. New surgical procedures are also tested on beagles, as evidenced by some of our beagles that were used for kidney transplant models.
If I adopt a laboratory retiree, will it have health or behavior issues?
No dog, regardless of its origin (a petstore, breeder, or shelter) has an iron-clad guarantee about issues that may arise. ALL of BRL’s beagles are assessed in foster homes for health and behavioral issues, and we do our best to match them to the right homes. Due to the scientific work being done with our retirees, we generally tend to have more comprehensive medical histories on them than other beagles in our rescue. Common medical conditions may already be known, or the dog may have been disqualified from a study and released to us due to something as common as “cherry eye” or food allergies that often cannot be addressed in a research environment. We know about these issues and inform our adopters about them. Otherwise, the potential for illness or injury is as unknown as it is for any other pet you bring into your home. Laboratory retirees DO have a higher tendency to struggle with certain behaviors and have some common medical issues including struggles with housetraining, the development of epilepsy, seasonal allergies, or car sickness difficulties. The majority of our beagles overcome these issues with a committed adopter. We will always discuss any known issues with adopters prior to adoption!
Do retired research beagles really make good pets?
We think so! Laboratory retirees tend to be slightly more difficult to place in homes because they often need continued work with housetraining and socialization, and often have more requirements, such as a fenced in yard and another beagle in the home in order for an adoption to be successful. People do have to remember that they have lived their entire lives in a research facility. However, these are dogs that were bred to be handled, and as such, often crave human touch and attention and just love to be with people. When over 100 of our laboratory retiree adopters were asked whether or not they support the adoption of research beagles, it was a unanimous and resounding “YES.” To us, that says it all.
PS – Each dog pictured here was once a service dog in the medical community and now, they are someone’s beloved companion! How could we look at these faces and not wish to help them?