Pity the poor beagle!
Their docile, loving, loyal and trusting demeanor makes them the perfect pets. Yet these same traits also make beagles popular for use in lab experiments. Unfortunately, as they are relatively small-sized dogs, research facilities can house more of them.
Ernie Anastos, a broadcaster I admire and respect, first brought the plight of the beagle to my attention. I was interviewed on Fox 5 News at 6 in New York by Kerry Drew about how beagles are actually raised to be used in medical experimentation.
A beagle was voted Best in Show at the 2014's Westminster Dog Show, becoming "America's Dog" for the year, even as the USDA reported that between 70,000 and 75,000 dogs are exploited for research in the United States each year. The majority of these are beagles.
An example of how beagles are actually purpose bred -- raised solely for the purpose of being subjects of experimentation -- is the work of Marshall BioResources. This breeder of animals for biomedical research located in New York proudly posts a beagle on its website as an example of animals it supplies to labs.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires that new pharmaceutical drugs and devices, pesticides and chemicals be tested on animals before being made available to the public. Every day, beagles are poisoned with experimental substances. They are force-fed, injected or have chemicals applied to their fur.
Life for a beagle in a lab is barren and monotonous; the cages are small with artificial light and ventilation. These animals never feel the sunshine, breathe fresh air or run through the grass. The boredom they experience can lead to stress-induced behaviors, such as circling the cage, endlessly rocking back and forth, pulling at their fur and self mutilation.
And finally, when they are no longer of use in the lab, they are euthanized.
What can we do to help the beagle, the breed so lovingly personified as Charlie Brown's Snoopy, Underdog and Shiloh in cartoons and movies?
Scientists are gradually coming to the conclusion that animal experimentation is slow, expensive and doesn't accurately predict outcomes in humans. In fact, safety testing of drugs on nonhuman animals doesn't help humans, as up to 92 percent of drugs fail in human trials despite promising results on animals.
We need to encourage innovative advancements in pharmaceutical and chemical testing that replace animal use and are based on human biology. The U.S. government is investing heavily in "on-a-chip" programs which could provide safely data about drugs without harming animals. We live in an age of exciting alternatives to animal testing through computer modeling and the use of cell and tissue culture.
So what can you do to help beagles? Contact your Federal legislators and urge them to petition the FDA to curtail animal testing, and to enact laws that replace animal testing with humane alternatives.
While dogs are not used for cosmetics testing, other animals are, and we can help them all by changing our behavior and being savvy consumers. For example, looking for the leaping bunny on the label before buying cosmetic products. The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetic administers the leaping bunny program, which certifies that the product has not been tested on animal with great information on cruelty-free companies.
We also need to support organizations such as BeFreegle Foundation, located in Putnam Valley, New York. The Foundation specializes in arranging for beagles used in research to be adopted rather than destroyed.
Give a beagle a forever home and it will reward you with love, loyalty and a lifetime of great companionship. Please make it your mission to save these beautiful dogs.