One by one, nervous beagles are carried out of a van and into the arms of volunteers at Homeward Trails in Fairfax Station, Virginia. All the volunteers want is to nurture them and let them be dogs.
The dogs were previously owned by Envigo RMS, which bred beagles for medical research. The company also supplied mice, rats, and some other animals, as well as some related services, to researchers.
But last month, the company was ordered by a federal judge to surrender all the facility’s beagles after federal officials accused the company of a series of animal welfare violations. Now, they’re in need of new homes.
Homeward Trails CEO Sue Bell said the dogs had never seen grass or toys.
“They have not touched [a] surface that hasn’t been rubber since they were born […] You’re seeing them getting to run and hop. They’ve never done that before […] They’ve never seen a toy. They’ve never sat in a lap. So, it’s a whole day of firsts for them,” Bell told CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez.
Bell said the puppies born in Envigo RMS had their ears tattooed with serial numbers by the breeders before they were sent away for testing.
“The puppies that were born, they would stay till a certain age and then be put in plastic crates and sent either by truck or by airplane to research facilities where they would then spend their life in a cage undergoing any number of medical or scientific research projects,” she said.
Video taken during a months-long undercover operation by PETA helped launch a federal investigation into the dogs’ treatment.
In May, the Department of Justice sued Envigo RMS, alleging that the company was failing to provide “humane care and treatment to the thousands of beagles at the company’s Cumberland facility.” In the complaint, the DOJ said that Envigo RMS was failing to meet the Animal Welfare Act’s “minimum standards for handling, housing, feeding, watering, sanitation, and adequate veterinary care, among other requirements.”
The company agreed to shut down the facility in a settlement last month, though it did not admit wrongdoing. CBS News reached out Envigo RMS for comment and is awaiting a response.
“The irony of that is that these Beagles are the lucky ones that were living in inhumane conditions because the conditions were inhumane enough to warrant this intervention from the Department of Justice,” said Manager of Media Relations at The Humane Society Kristen Peek.
The Humane Society is helping transfer and secure adoptions for the 4,000 remaining beagles from the Cumberland facility. Peek said that due to the high volume of beagles, the Humane Society is working on a rolling basis and is partnering with shelters and rescue organizations across the country.
“We are moving the approximately 4,000 dogs in batches. We’re picking them up on a rolling basis, 300 to 500 at a time. And so, some of them come to the Humane Society of the United States care and rehabilitation center. Some go directly to shelter and rescue partners,” said Peek.
The story has caught the attention of many people, including Andrea Justice, who visited some of the beagles at Homeward Trails.
“We have plenty of room in our hearts and in our house,” Justice said.
The Humane Society has a list of shelter and rescue partners across the country that will be assisting with the placement of the beagles.