A huge dog rehoming effort is underway after 4,000 beagles were removed from a facility in Virginia which was breeding them to be sold to laboratories for drug experiments.
In what is thought to be one of the largest dog rescue efforts in US history, the beagles were taken from an Envigo site in Cumberland, Virginia after it was closed down following a litany of animal rights violations.
Government inspectors found beagles there were being killed instead of receiving care for easily treated conditions; nursing mother beagles were denied food; the food they received contained maggots, mould and faeces; and over an eight-week period, 25 beagle puppies died from cold exposure, the Humane Society said in a statement.
Some were injured when attacked by other dogs in overcrowded conditions, it added.
Rehoming charities say many of the animals show signs of trauma, and some of the puppies had never been held and did not know how to play.
In May, the US Department of Justice sued Envigo RMS LLC alleging Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility in Cumberland, Virginia. In June, parent company Inotiv Inc said it would close the facility. In July, Envigo settled with the government without paying any fines.
Inotiv did not respond to a request for comment.
The beagle rescue effort began much earlier, according to Bill Stanley, a Republican state senator for Virginia. "I tried to shut them down in 2019, but was not successful. But over the years, we never stopped fighting."
Shelters from Illinois, to Pittsburgh have begun receiving the dogs, which will get medical exams, vaccinations and other treatments before becoming available for adoption.
"It's going to take 60 days to get all of these animals out, and working with our shelter and rescue partners across the country, working with them to get these dogs eventually into ever-loving home," said Kitty Block, president and chief executive of the US Humane Society.