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Western Pennsylvania shelters will adopt out 21 beagles rescued from a Virginia research facility

Beagles photo.PNG
Courtesy of Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh
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The U.S. Justice Department charged the company Envigo this spring for violating dozens of federal animal welfare regulations at its research facility in Cumberland, Va. On Monday, five local shelters received 21 of the up to 4,000 beagles who suffered abuse by Envigo.

Five animal shelters in western Pennsylvania are rehoming 21 of the up to 4,000 beagles that suffered abuse at a pharmaceutical research site in Virginia, local animal rescue leaders said Tuesday.

The company Envigo bred and sold beagles for research at its facility in Cumberland, Virginia. This spring, the U.S. Justice Department charged it with violating dozens of federal animal welfare regulations. A federal judge approved a rescue plan for the dogs last month, and now shelters across the country are working to find new homes for them.

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Locally, participating rescue organizations include Animal Friends in Ohio Township, Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh, the Beaver County Humane Society, Butler County Humane Society and Washington Area Humane Society. Animal Friends received five dogs Monday night, and the other four shelters each received four. They are all eight-month-old males, said Humane Animal Rescue’s marketing director, Michele Frennier.

She said the dogs were crated in a transport van for the 6.5-hour drive from Cumberland to the western Pennsylvania shelters.

“Overall, they seemed a little scared but seemed to be settling in. I know that before we put them into their kennels [at the rescue sites], they seemed tired,” she said. “They all did eat. They're overall in good condition. And we're looking forward to helping them adapt as quickly as possible and get them into loving homes.”

First, the rescue organizations will conduct medical exams of the dogs and neuter, vaccinate and micro-chip them. In addition, shelter staff will help to ease the animals into a new environment.

“Because they have been in this [Envigo] facility, what [the beagles] are really going to be doing is spending time with our team, learning things about being a dog, because they haven't had that experience,” Frennier said. “So we'll be giving them a little time to de-stress and … adjusting them to their new surroundings and ultimately preparing them to be adopted.”

Frennier noted that the beagles will need to learn simple things such as wearing a collar and walking on a leash. Given that the ones who are now in western Pennsylvania are still puppies, Frennier said, “it's still a very learning, adaptable time for them. So hopefully, it will be an easier transition for them and less traumatizing [than for older dogs].”

The five local shelters will post the beagles on their respective websites once they’re ready to be adopted, Frennier said.

“We will encourage folks to come in and have an opportunity to meet them. And we will be trying to make their availability as open and accessible to all adopters,” she said.

She noted that while the local rescue groups are open to taking more of the beagles from Virginia, capacity is limited.

“So, as we are excited about this opportunity,” she said, “we just want to remind folks about the opportunity to come and visit our organizations, see the pets that are currently waiting for their forever homes. There's some wonderful animals – cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs. We even have a turtle right now.”

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.