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Rescue groups begin work to rehome 4,000 beagles bred for research

Sue Bell holds one of more than a dozen beagles that arrived at the headquarters of animal rescue group Homeward Trails in Fairfax Station, Va., on Thursday, while posing for a portrait. The dogs were a small portion of the roughly 4,000 beagles rescued from a research facility where the conditions were found to be inhumane.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Sue Bell holds one of more than a dozen beagles that arrived at the headquarters of animal rescue group Homeward Trails in Fairfax Station, Va., on Thursday, while posing for a portrait. The dogs were a small portion of the roughly 4,000 beagles rescued from a research facility where the conditions were found to be inhumane.

The first group of the roughly 4,000 beagles in the custody of a research facility in Virginia have been brought to their new, temporary homes.

More than a dozen beagles arrived at the facility of the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Virginia on Thursday. It was the first of many deliveries as hundreds of rescue groups across the country are mobilizing in the coming weeks to rehome the beagles.

Dogs explore toys and their surroundings after they arrived Thursday at animal rescue group Homeward Trails in Fairfax Station, Va.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Dogs explore toys and their surroundings after they arrived Thursday at animal rescue group Homeward Trails in Fairfax Station, Va.
Eva Brandan takes a beagle off of a bus after over a dozen beagles arrived at Homeward Trails.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
/
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Eva Brandan takes a beagle off of a bus after over a dozen beagles arrived at Homeward Trails.
Animal trainer Janice du Plessis supervises beagles exploring the outdoors after the dogs' arrival.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Animal trainer Janice du Plessis supervises beagles exploring the outdoors after the dogs' arrival.

The Humane Society of the United States is spearheading the effort to transfer these dogs from their current home at the Envigo facility in Cumberland, Va., to shelters. The organization has just a few weeks to get this done.

Earlier this year the Envigo facility, which bred these beagles for pharmaceutical research and testing, was found to be in violation of several federal regulations. A federal judge ordered the dogs to be released within 60 days.

Staff members of Homeward Trails examine one the newly arrived beagles.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Staff members of Homeward Trails examine one the newly arrived beagles.
Annie Esquivel (left) and Kelsey Moncrief put a temporary collar on a dog, newly named Neema.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Annie Esquivel (left) and Kelsey Moncrief put a temporary collar on a dog, newly named Neema.

Animal rescue groups from Wyoming, Massachusetts, Virginia and elsewhere are working together to assist in this herculean effort.

"Finding partners who can make space and find homes for around 4,000 dogs in the summer — a time of year when animal shelters already are over-capacity — will be a feat of epic proportions," Kitty Block, president of The Humane Society of the United States, wrote on her blog.

Kindness Ranch, an animal rescue group from Wyoming, also trekked out to Virginia this week. The organization already has named the first of the more than 150 beagles they will be rescuing from Envigo: He's Uno.

Annie Esquivel carries a beagle onto the grass at Homeward Trails.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Annie Esquivel carries a beagle onto the grass at Homeward Trails.
One of the dogs drinks out of a kiddie pool.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
One of the dogs drinks out of a kiddie pool.
Meghan Hobson lowers a dog onto the ground at Homeward Trails.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Meghan Hobson lowers a dog onto the ground at Homeward Trails.

It will take some time before these dogs will be up for adoption. The Envigo beagles must be evaluated by each of these rescue groups and vetted for any illnesses or behavioral issues before they get to their forever homes.

In the meantime, the dogs appear to be enjoying their freedom.

Grass! Grass is neat!
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Grass! Grass is neat!
Dogs greet each after arriving.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Dogs greet each after arriving.

Homeward Trails shared videos of the first moments of the dogs arriving at their facility on social media. The dogs excitedly sniffed the ground, played with toys, and ran on grass for the first time.

And on their first full day of freedom the beagles were treated to a much-needed spa day, the organization posted.

"These cuties enjoyed a bubble bath and massage followed by an afternoon of frolicking in the yard, cuddle time in our Peace Out rooms, frozen kongs and cool nap time," Homeward Trails wrote. "Oh how it feels great to be FREE to be a DOG! For dogs that have spent their entire lives in a kennel, these cuties are truly embracing life and love."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A beagle sits in a corner of the animal rescue group facility.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
A beagle sits in a corner of the animal rescue group facility.
Jessica Powers pets one of the new arrivals.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
Jessica Powers pets one of the new arrivals.
One of the rescued beagles receives some affection.
/ Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
/
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR
One of the rescued beagles receives some affection.

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Jaclyn Diaz
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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