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Beagles rescued from American animal testing facility find loving foster homes in Alberta

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Ten beagles rescued from animal testing in the United States arrived in Alberta on Wednesday, thanks to a Canadian charity.

The Beagle Alliance, based in Winnipeg, is an organization that helps advocate for the release of animals used in laboratory research across North America.

Beagles are the most commonly used breed of dog in testing facilities across the globe because of their forgiving nature, docile behaviour and ability to easily fit into a cage.

Executive director Lori Cohen says the charity is now looking to place some of the recently rescued beagles into loving homes, while others are already spoken for.

"These dogs have never felt sun on their snouts or the grass under their paws," she said. "It's a special moment to see their first few steps."

"We've crossed a lot of borders to get these little guys to freedom, and they're going to meet their new homes or new families going forward."

Keoma Thorne, who is fostering one of the rescued beagles, says many people are surprised to learn animal testing is still happening in Canada.

"Whenever I talk to people about it, they're shocked," Thorne said.

If it's not something you support, she says one of the best ways consumers can help is by supporting companies that are cruelty free.

"Look at your labels, make sure that you are not contributing to the problem that way, because if you are demanding cruelty-free products, then companies will start looking for other means of testing." 

In 2022, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) reported more than 10,000 dogs were used in testing in Canada.

The exact fate of animals following testing is not known, but out of the 10,000 dogs, about 6,000 were used in education programs such veterinary or animal care schools.

In some cases, the unfortunate result of those tests ends in the euthanizing of the animals. 

Cohen notes that Canadian facilities, both public and private, are not bound by law to release animals after use in science, and there's no federal governing body that oversees the treatment of animals in Canada.

"They suffer from PTSD and anxiety, but because of their resilience and ability to forgive, become the most loving companions and family members," Cohen said.

"We intend to prove to the CCAC, the voluntary regulatory body overseeing animals in science in Canada, as well as the facilities themselves, that with experience, education, patience and support, these dogs can go on to live may more years outside of the cage than inside."

Ten beagles rescued from animal testing in the United States arrived in Alberta on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. In June of 2023, Canada's federal government passed Bill S-5, the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, which will phase out toxicity testing on animals by 2035.

CCAC executive director Pierre Verreault applauds the decision.

"I think this is a big step forward," he said. "Other countries have been moving forward on this for a few years, so we're glad to see our country moving in that same direction."

Under the Constitution Act 1867, the federal government currently does not have jurisdiction to legislate experiments involving animals.

Legislation instead falls to provinces, but ethical and humane CCAC certification has been a federal condition since 1968, requiring all institutions that receive funding from federal grant programs to prevent abuse, neglect and cruelty of any kind during testing.

"Most of the provinces will have cruelty laws, the same at the federal level as well, but when it comes to science, it is a very different way of looking at the ethical framework around it," Verrault said.

"The CCAC program that is in place makes sure that the organizations that use animals in testing are doing so according to the standards we develop."

The name of the American research lab the beagles were recently rescued from cannot be named, but The Beagles Alliance was safely able to transport them into Canada with proper rabies vaccination and health certificates as required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Anyone interested in volunteering, fostering, adopting or donating to The Beagle Alliance van visit the charity's website or call 1-204-266-1968. 

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