Earlier this month, L.A.-based Beagle Freedom Project, part of ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education), spearheaded the rescue of beagles used in animal testing labs. Founder Shannon Keith and fellow animal rights attorney Jill Ryther, along with activist Ady Gil and Gary The Thinking Vegan himself, rose early in the morning to drive a significant distance, pick up and transport nine beagles (and four bunnies).
Watch the heart-twisting video:
Six girls (Addie, Frida, Jordan, Trixie, Clover and Liberation aka Libby) and three boys (Roger, Malcolm and Sherlock) were released from their cages and handed over to the waiting arms of fosters on June 8. A few days later thanks to the above-and-beyond work of Pilots N Paws we welcomed three more boys (Oliver, Ryder and Barney), bringing the total number of Beagle Freedom Project’s freegles to 14.
The San Francisco Chronicle, among other media outlets, produced an excellent story on the rescue that generated enormous response, and here is one of the local TV stories. One newspaper reporter was so touched by the story she’d been sent to cover that she adopted two of the newly rescued bunnies on the spot. The other two are enjoying life at the nonprofit Blue Skies Animal Sanctuary while they wait to be adopted.
Although we didn’t plan to, we ended up taking in Malcolm the day after his rescue since things didn’t work out in his original foster. Gary hasn’t had a dog since his youth, and I’ve never had a dog, putting Malcolm at a serious disadvantage. Unfortunately there are no other dogs here to teach him about toys, climbing stairs, or where to potty, so we do the best we can with those. But he’s been a trooper, making progress almost every day and coming out of his shell slowly. He smiles at us now and shows his naughty side. If he were a Playboy centerfold his ‘likes’ would be V-dog kibble, resting, exploring the back yard, piles of leaves, and walks (most of the time). His dislikes include helicopters, motorcycles, leaf blowers, the TV show Whale Wars (too noisy), baths, and bandannas.
We don’t know yet if Malcolm will be a foster fail or not. It’s so hard for us to determine what’s best for him. He has a family waiting for him, people who by all reports would give him a wonderful home, people who already have a beagle (major plus) and children (not such a plus, per Malcolm). But few people would be as dedicated as we are about making sure the story of Malcolm, and all other lab animals, gets told. But that has nothing to do with him having the best home.
Everyone with laboratory rescues should feel a special responsibility to talk about our pet’s origins and educate others about animal testing. Our dogs, rabbits, etc. are “ambassadors,” a living representation of the cruelty of laboratories.
I make a point of telling his story to everyone I can. I take advantage of every opportunity to talk to people about animal testing. People admire him on walks and we stop to chat. More likely people giggle at us, since we alternate between him pulling me at a fast clip, and me urging him on when something spooks him (or giving up and carrying him like a baby). He isn’t exactly “Mr. Leashability” yet, so I tell them why. I explain he was surgically de-barked by the breeder so he wouldn’t “disturb” lab personnel with cries of pain and loneliness. I say he is one of the lucky ones, since about 75,000 dogs are used by the research industry in the U.S. each year. I tell them the majority of animal testing is done for consumer products (cosmetics, detergents, lawn chemicals, etc.), for the sickening greed of corporations, or simply for the curiosity of people in white coats, serving no socially beneficial purpose at all.
When people understand the issues, they realize that it is unethical, cruel, and must be stopped. A few days ago Malcolm met a neighbor walking her two rescued mutts. She had no idea dogs were used in animal testing. By the end of our conversation, she was not only ready to throw away all her makeup, she was ready to break into a lab and set the animals free.
I’ve had several successful conversations with people who have tattoos. I tell them “Malcolm has a tattoo too. He got it in prison.” Then I show the inside of his right ear, where his federal ID number marks him permanently as a lab animal. They have no idea what his tattoo means, so I explain where he came from.
Once on a “walk” we stopped to speak to two young men going door-to-door for something. One of them was very taken with Malcolm and knelt down to pet him. I noticed the tattoos peeking out of the man’s shirt so I used the prison tattoo line, showed Malcolm’s ear, and told him where Malcolm came from.
“He’s only been on the outside for two weeks,” I said, trying to explain his lack of leash skills and his skittishness. The man held back tears.
“I’ve been out for 90 days, little guy. It gets better, I promise you.”
A few days later we were in a neighborhood pet store. After we explained how he came to us, the store staff made a fuss over him, giving him treats and love. I showed them his number and said “it’s not that attractive, but prison tattoos rarely are.”
“No, but they usually have a lot of meaning,” the manager said, in a way that let me know he understood something about the life.
Unfortunately we understand very little about Malcolm’s existence before a few weeks ago. We assume it was a horror movie. He still suffers daily from the stress of the first 21 months of his life.
In an essay about his time in prison, an ex-con wrote:
“I watched my back everywhere I went. I would sit in the shadows and study the guards and convicts. Nobody really knew me, I was a silent presence. That’s the way to go when surrounded in a world of insane people.”
I imagine Malcolm could have written this exact sentiment.
Portions of this blog appear courtesy of Beagle Freedom Project. Please support this work if you are financially able. All contributions are tax deductible and no amount is too small.