Beagle love spreads in San Fernando Valley as severely abused beagles arrive in LA – Daily News


Nancy adores cuddling. She loves to feel the grass under her feet.

She responds to toys, plays with balls, is frightened by loud noises and is now living the life of Riley in Sherman Oaks with her foster parents and foster sibling. Sounds like the perfect scenario for a 5-year-old beagle. But Nancy is not your average beagle.

She was born and raised in captivity in the beagle-breeding and research facility Envigo in Cumberland, Virginia where she gave birth many unknown times and was wounded by other dogs. But in July, a federal judge ordered that the roughly 4,000 caged beagles be removed from what federal inspectors described as deplorable conditions.

Nancy, with parts of her ears chewed off, wounds over her body, and decaying teeth, traveled cross-country in a specialized van with 14 other rescued beagles and arrived in California earlier this month. The 15 dogs were taken to Anaheim-based Cage to Couch, a nonprofit animal rescue organization that works to secure the release of animal laboratory survivors who endured cruelty, abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Beagles are the most common breed used for experimenting because, experts have explained, they are gentle, loyal and docile and thus easy to control.

Cage to Couch advertised on social media and through word of mouth seeking homes for the beagles, and two weeks ago Nancy found a home in San Fernando Valley with Gary and Kezia Smith.

In her new home she is experiencing an enriching, loving life. “We have a lot of beagle experience,” Keizia Smith said, on Wednesday, Aug. 24. “We have fostered a lot of laboratory rescues and a lot of others from the meat trade (in China). We have a specialty with these dogs in extreme confinement kind of situations, because they are different and not like your average street dog.”

Nancy, named after the good girl with an independent streak in the Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” is slowly adjusting to her freedom in some ways and surprisingly quickly in others, Gary Smith said.

“She shows physical evidence of her life at Envigo,” he said. “She arrived at (Cage to Couch) with freshly torn ears and wounds that are starting to scab over. But she’s lucky she survived. Nancy has a lot of physical and emotional healing to do, but so far, she enjoys her squeaky llama, food and her foster sister Josie” — a dog rescued from China after a lab sold her into the meat trade.

Thousands of dogs like Nancy were freed when a U.S. District Court judge in Virginia on July 5 approved a joint plan calling for the transfer of every dog held at Envigo to be released to shelters for adoption, primarily on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Mary Pryor, executive director of Cage to Couch, said that in addition to the five males and 10 females ranging in age from 2 to 8 that they rescued, another 20 beagles are arriving on Aug. 31. She said the Envigo beagles were probably all born at the facility and were cooped up for years.

While each dog is different, they share some similar behaviors. “They are all very easily startled by sounds, every little sound — which surprises me because I would think it had to be noisy in there,” Pryor said. “They are not house broken. How can they be when they have been going potty right in the cages, probably their whole lives? They are not leash-trained but most of them, the 15 we have gotten, and from what I heard from other rescues too, they all seem to love people. They are afraid and skittish, but they love to be petted and they are very sweet dogs.”

Pryor believes the rescued beagles will settle in and become acclimated to their new surroundings and become more like typical dogs, but they will always be different.

She has two laboratory rescues, aged 10, “who were made blind in the laboratory,” Pryor said. “They never touched grass, they had never been out of a cage. And now I have them, and they are 15 years old … and they go on a walk twice a day, they love their food. Of course they are beagles, they love to cuddle. They don’t know what toys are, and they never will. They just simply didn’t get that in puppyhood.”


While the beagles are in foster care, Cage to Couch is financially responsible for their care.

“One of the interesting things about this is there’s a win — the Department of Justice got involved and these dogs got out of there and (Envigo) was cited for animal cruelty, etcetera,” Pryor said. But Envigo was not required to pay a fine or fund the rehabilitation of the dogs. “All of us, who have taken them now, are paying for them being spayed and neutered and vaccinated, wellness checks, medications and ear infections,” she said.

Under the court ruling, the roughly 4,000 captive dogs once meant to be sold for experimentation in the U.S., Japan, France and the Netherlands, will be removed from the Envigo facility within 60 days of the court order. The scandal has drawn national and global attention. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, adopted one of the dogs from the rescue organization Beagle Freedom Project in Valley Village, according to news reports.

“This is a great ending to a long story,” said Dan Paden, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires drugs developed for human medicine to go through, at some point in their development, an animal trial.”

“Some of that is done on nonhuman primates,” Paden said, “some of it is done on rodents, but the dogs are a common subject in those experiments. And beagles are kind of the preferred victim among canines, because they’re so sweet and docile and experimenters find them to be a good size … because they are large enough to manipulate and study, but small enough to handle.”

Paden said his organization found published scientific journals that described how beagles from Envigo that were sold and shipped out suffered injuries such as eyes burned with caustic chemicals and holes drilled into their skulls.

“They were inflicted with staph bacteria and put into septic shock and induced with pneumonia and respiratory ailments,” Paden said. “The animals have been sold off to horrific fates for many years and this facility’s attorney told the federal judge at the June 13 hearing that this facility raised about 25 percent of all the beagles used in laboratories in the United States. This was one of the top two or three of its nature in the country and clearly played a large role in that industry.”

The Humane Society undertook a rescue operation last month after the lawsuit by the Department of Justice accusing Envigo of multiple Animal Welfare Act violations was settled, and Envigo agreed to hand over the dogs. The neglect, intense confinement, suffering and deaths came to light during an inspection by the U. S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, after a 2021 undercover investigation conducted by Virginia-based PETA.

“PETA helped spark a historic domino effect that paved the way for the closure of the dog prison,” according to its website.

The organization said no beds, toys or stimulation were provided and animals were kept in small barrels, kennels and cages 24/7 in sheds that stretched as long as a football field. According to PETA’s website, the noise level of the barking dogs was deafening when hundreds of them barked at the same time.

“(It) reached over 117 decibels – louder than a rock concert – and of course, the dogs had no way to escape from the virtually constant noise,” they found.

The crowded conditions fueled fights, and the dogs suffered wounds primarily to their ears. Female dogs were bred continuously for years and gave birth on hard floors.

Envigo committed 70 animal rights violations, including inhumanely euthanizing puppies, the death of more than 300 puppies in 2021 due to unknown causes, failing to address severe skin problems and dental disease, and allowing dog fights that resulted in wounds, according to court records.

“While the court barred (Envigo) from breeding and selling dogs at the facility and experimenting on animals there, Envigo was not fined,” Paden said.  “However, the order left open the possibility that federal, state and or local prosecutors could file criminal charges in the matter.”



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