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Our view: Beagle power

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We begin with the supposition that dogs make life better.

Not everyone is meant to care for a pet, of course, but generally speaking, we lean into the book title, “Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac.” Dogs are supportive, unconditionally loving and eager to please. These faithful companions enrich human lives in many, many ways.

Add to that the understanding that mistreating these innocent animals — especially when they’re helplessly in our control — is simply depraved; so much so that we often advocate for harsher punishments for those who practice any sort of abuse or neglect against them.

Apply that to the story of the Virginia dog-breeding facility that was closed earlier this year, and it’s hard not to feel good about the outcome — especially since North Carolina rescuers played a role.

It’s only sad that it took so long for action to occur.

Back in 2019, Envigo RMS bought a facility in Virginia that breeds dogs to be used in scientific research. Almost immediately, the new owner began wracking up citations for violations, including findings that dogs had received inadequate medical care and insufficient food and were being housed in filthy conditions. Since then, hundreds of dogs have been found dead at the facility.

Complaints proliferated, even as Envigo officials promised to make changes — and, in some small ways, did.

But after years of warnings and citing violations, including calls from Virginia’s U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, for federal inspectors to strip the facility of its license, the Department of Justice finally shut down the facility in May. The DOJ enlisted the assistance of PETA, based in Norfolk, the Humane Society of North Carolina and other animal-care organizations to rescue the dogs and give them new homes.

And that’s where we come in.

Of 4,000 beagles rescued from the facility, 79 have settled into foster homes in central North Carolina, thanks to the participation of Triangle Beagle Rescue of North Carolina.

Public support for their efforts was enthusiastic.

“We had over 200 foster applications,” Dan Savarese, a representative of Triangle Beagle, said. “We actually crashed our website.”

Supporters have helped, not only by fostering the beagles, but by donating supplies, including harnesses and beds.

All of this practically guarantees new, happy lives for the beagles, previously bred and kept confined in artificial environments.

“Those dogs have never put their paws on grass. Many of them have never seen the sun. They’ve never had a toy. They’ve never had a bed. They haven’t had a family,” PETA Vice President Dan Paden told WRAL News last month.

“They’re like big puppies. They lived on cement their whole lives, and they don’t know what treats are,” Triangle Beagle marketing coordinator Leann Tenbusch said.

There’s a lot to unpack in this story aside from the appeal of the beagles — including questions about why it took so long to shutter the facility when it so often violated the Animal Welfare Act, as the lawsuit against the facility maintains.

And incidents like this renew questions of whether we should allow thinking, feeling animals to be used in scientific research — and in what kind. There’s a big difference between research to cure cancer in humans and research to improve the durability of lipstick. Animal research has been regulated in the U.S. since 1966, but abuses still occur.

And while some legislators have objected to — and legislated against — the ability of animal-rights operatives to gather evidence from these types of facilities by working undercover, it’s hard to argue that they should have been prevented from doing so in this case. PETA conducted a months-long undercover investigation of the facility in 2021 that helped gather information used in the lawsuit.

“PETA finds suffering like this every time we crack open an operation like Envigo, and this needs to be the beginning of the end for this hideous beagle-breeding mill,” Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said in a statement.

These beagles are now being cared for, largely in the Triangle and in Greensboro. But similar pets, just as needful, currently reside in local animal shelters, waiting for loving families to take them home and spoil them.

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