Anyone who loves dogs will find it hard to visualize the life that some dogs must endure. On social media, we get a glimpse behind the scenes at puppy farms up and down the country, but we don’t often see inside laboratories where thousands of dogs spend their days locked up and so we perhaps don’t truly see what those dogs go through.
An expert in the field, Andre Menache MRCVS told us that, from birth, laboratory dogs, bred specifically to be tested on are “raised in a closed, aseptic dog breeding ‘factory’ without open spaces and without natural light or air. Instead, they are exposed to artificial lighting, controlled temperature and humidity and ventilation system, along with the constant noise of barking dogs, water hoses, the banging of metal doors and the clanging of metal food containers.”
At five months old he tells us they are sold to an animal testing laboratory and go through extensive training in order to get used to a laboratory environment.
“If this isn’t more than enough to drive any dog crazy, including one as docile as a Beagle, what follows will be hell on earth.”
Only a lucky few find freedom. Here are the stories of three of those dogs, as told by their owners.
Meet Scarlett, Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn.
Scarlett is owned by Jane Bailes Green and Phil Green and lives in the UK. Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn are owned by Donna Bohanon and her family and they live in the US.
Donna begins, “I could talk about my girls forever. They are amazingly resilient and make the most wonderful companions.
Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn
“I have had a love of animals as long as I can remember. I used to bring home all the strays. I have had dogs and cats throughout my life. My love of Beagles came when my son read the book Shiloh in grade school. That’s when we got our first Beagle 15 years ago. Tucker is still with us.”
Janie tells us her eyes were opened to the pain of dogs, like Scarlett from an early age, “As a child, I loved my dogs and my pony and other small animals. In fact, all dogs and all animals were a source of beauty and pleasure. As I grew older I was acutely aware of how we as a species systematically abuse and use animals for our own needs and profit. My eyes were open, no burying my head in the sand or denial when it came to finding out about vivisection as a teenager. This knowledge has been hard to bear for a lot of my life. Once known, one cannot forget sadly.
“During my twenties and thirties, I adopted four Beagles called Harry, Rudy, Homer and Georgia, all from different beginnings and all rescued. They gave me so much love and strength and hope, I loved them all with all my heart.
“I met Phil in 2014 and we married in 2017. Phil would say I have opened his eyes to the world of animals, it is better to be educated than ignorant he says. He is also a dog lover, was bought up in Wales with Border Collies, this breed was his favourite. However, now having experienced the love of Scarlett, he now advocates Beagles are astoundingly loving and intelligent, Scarlett and Daddy are inseparable!
Scarlett with Janie and Phil on their wedding day
“I was so lucky to have been put in touch with Louise, the founder of For Life On Earth (FLOE) last year. She is an amazing lady with vast knowledge of the vivisection industry.”
Scarlett and her daddy, Phil
Hi ladies. Thanks for sharing your dogs’ stories with us today. Let’s begin at the start of their lives with you.
Please tell us about them.
Donna: “Bailey Jane was my first lab rescue and she is four years old and was rescued when she was just under two years old.
Bailey Jane on the day of her rescue
“Bailey Jane was rescued by the Beagle Freedom Project in their Summer of Freedom rescue, where they rescued 38 beagles in a multi-state rescue.
Bailey Jane running free
“Of my two dogs, she is the more serious one. She is kind of laid back and loves to carry around and bury her piece of denim and shred her stuffed toys. She likes to roll around in the extra blankets I put on the bed for her, especially if they are fresh out of the clothes dryer.
“Gracie Lynn is three years old. She was about 18 months old when she was rescued from animal experimentation. She was saved about a year after Bailey Jane along with three other dogs.
Gracie Lynn on the day of her rescue
“She is a character. Always doing funny things. She likes to chew on her chew toys and always wants to be the centre of attention. She loves to run in the yard, go for walks with Bailey Jane or to the local coffee stand.”
Gracie Lynn running free
Janie: “Scarlett came into our lives through the Rescue + Freedom Project (formerly known as Beagle Freedom Project), a US-based charity with a mission to end animal exploitation through rescues, campaigns and legislation. She was released from the laboratory in December 2016 and we adopted her in January 2017. Her passport indicates she is three years old, but the poor state of her teeth suggests she might be as much as a year older than that.
Scarlett on the day of her release
“It is clear that Scarlett is no ordinary dog. She enjoys her freedom, her long forest walks, gives huge amounts of love and enjoys playing with toys and other dogs. In many ways, she appears to be a normal pet dog who is enjoying life, but underneath the surface is a very deep sadness.
“Look into her eyes and spend time with her and you will see her PTSD and the many fears and anxieties that run deep. Rather than treat any new experience with inquisitiveness and excitement, the horrors of her previous life of incarceration as a laboratory subject and experiencing pain at the hands of humans has taught her that any new experience will likely be one of pain and suffering and is to be feared.”
Scarlett on the day she became part of Janie and Phil's family
How did you first hear about your dogs before adopting?
Donna: “I first heard dogs were used in animal testing in 2010 when I saw on the news that 40 Beagles were being rescued from animal testing in Spain.
“In 2015 I was contacted about rescuing a lab Beagle and I jumped on the chance to give one of these special dogs a loving home and family.
“Bailey Jane came into my home first. She was afraid of doorways, loud noises, wind, grass, and men. She had never touched grass or felt the sun on her face. It was all new.
“She instantly took to me. She was very fearful, her safe place when she was scared was in my bed. It didn’t take long before she was running and playing with my other Beagles. They taught her how to be a dog."
Watch her run free for the first time
Donna continues, “Gracie Lynn came to me a year later as a foster dog until they could find her a suitable forever family. She had the same fears as Bailey Jane but was more fearful. She would run in circles in the yard and was very nervous. She was also very fearful of men. Over the course of a couple weeks, she started to relax.
“I had her in my home for 55 days before we decided to adopt her into our family. I couldn’t bear to let her go. She was family.
“It is amazing to watch their progress. To watch them go from scared tortured animals, into loving family members was heartwarming.”
Janie: “We have followed the Rescue + Freedom Project for several years and applied to adopt an ex-laboratory Beagle in early 2016. Several months later we were contacted by Rescue + Freedom Project and vetted as prospective adopters for an imminent rescue from a European laboratory.
"Seven dogs – five girls and two boys – were liberated and brought to the UK for rehoming and we were lucky enough to be offered Scarlett.”
Do you know what their lives would have been like before you adopted?
Donna: “All I know about their time in the lab is that it was some sort of medical research. The labs are not eager to let that information out.
“They have no name only a number tattooed into their ear. They would have lived in a small cage with a grated floor and probably tested on daily, maybe even many times a day.”
Donna tells us symptoms aren’t always just mental, sometimes physical too.
“Bailey Jane had strange feet when she first came out of the lab. She put her weight on her toes but her pads didn’t touch the ground. Most likely due to a grated floor. They did eventually return to normal.
“Had Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn and the others who were rescued at the same time as them not been rescued, they would ultimately have been euthanized and disposed of. They may have even been used in another study or sold to yet another lab.”
Janie: “Part of the agreement when adopting from Rescue + Freedom Project is that details of the testing laboratory or what the animals were used for is never disclosed. The laboratories do not want this information to be released for obvious reasons. The strict confidentiality does at least help secure the release of more animals in the future with ‘no questions asked’, so giving those animals a second chance at life instead of simply being euthanized.
“Although no details of Scarlett’s background have been disclosed, her behaviours are a heart-breaking indication of the pain and suffering of her former life in the lab.”
Scarlett's tattoo revealed by Ricky Gervais in K9 Magazine / Photo Credit: Joseph Sinclair for K9 Magazine
Can you share some examples please, Janie?
“Scarlett gets excited when we get ready to take her on a walk, but the moment the harness and lead appears she goes into ‘compliance mode’, crouching down with her head and paws all flat on the floor. When picked up she goes all limp.
"These are indications of the training she would have endured to get her used to a laboratory environment, having learned – often through physical abuse – that ‘the less I move, the less I hurt.’ Even when mummy or daddy come home, she is initially excited and runs to greet us but quickly crouches down in compliance, waiting for permission to move and fearful of doing the wrong thing.
“Scarlett does not travel well and will shake and drool profusely at both the start and the end of a car journey, having learned that being transported anywhere results in pain and suffering. We try to counteract this by making sure that every car journey ends with something fun and exciting for her.
Scarlett at home
“Scarlett will not tolerate being covered, an indication that she has been placed in a sling, jacket or other restraining equipment when being tested on. This makes it impossible for us to dry her with a towel or wrap her in a blanket to keep warm. If accidentally covered, she will bolt.
“Scarlett has issues around eating. Even when hungry, she needs considerable coaxing including being hand fed by way of getting permission to eat. Sometimes she will not eat at all when watched, choosing instead to eat while we are asleep. We can only guess that she may have been subject to tube feeding, for example, gavage (forcing a long tube directly into the stomach via the mouth and oesophagus, in order to administer something for testing, sometimes in toxic doses).
“Scarlett is highly sensitive to sudden loud noises, especially metallic, consistent with the sounds of a lab environment, such as, banging of cage doors, jangling of equipment and clanging of food containers. Any sudden noise, even a quiet one, can worry Scarlett.
“Outdoors, Scarlett is frightened of objects such as large flags flapping in the wind and anything that moves involuntarily. Large metallic constructions cause her to crouch down in fear. Any doorway, gate or entrance can be a source of anxiety for her.”
What did you know about the animal testing world before adopting your dogs?
Donna: “I knew animal experimentation happened. I didn’t know how many species of animals were used in testing until I saw a Beagle rescue on TV in 2010. That was my eye opener to the cruel world of animal experimentation.
“Since learning about animal testing my household has gone cruelty-free.”
Janie: “We have known about vivisection since our twenties. We are now in our fifties and have witnessed much undercover footage of the horrors that go on in labs and we have met some very informed doctors and scientists that are against animal experimentation. It is not only cruelty on an industrial scale but is now proven to be scientifically failing human patients in the search for their treatments and cures.
“In June 2014, the British Medical Journal published their Editor’s Choice about the lack of predictive value animal testing has for humans. Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt stated “currently, nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because we cannot accurately predict how they will behave in people based on laboratory and animal studies” – and leading medical doctor Ray Greek says ‘each physiological system is now understood to be highly complex and unique. Current knowledge of genetics and evolutionary biology can explain how and why studying animals has failed – and will continue to fail - the search for human medicines’.
“Something must change. Today there are cutting edge human-based methods that are scientifically sound and come with a track record of success. These can properly serve the community and do not involve the torture and genocide of animals.
“We are so delighted that Scarlett has become Beagle Ambassador for the foremost science-based campaign For Life On Earth (FLOE) which is working with over 100 MPs, now calling for a rigorous public science hearing to medically judge and then end these outdated animal experiments. This means that something positive can come out of Scarlett’s terrible past; she can help shed much-needed light on the 70-year-old law which continues to keeps animal testing in place, despite its now recognised medical failure.
Scarlett running free with Ricky Gervais in K9 Magazine / Photo Credit: Joseph Sinclair for K9 Magazine
“Living with Scarlett has confirmed our beliefs and her little ways and behaviours are a daily reminder of a life traumatised. Scarlett comes to life on her forest walks and a lot of people take an interest in her – she is small, cute and loves children and other animals – which gives us the opportunity to talk to people and educate them.
“Some people have heard of animal testing but believe it stopped decades ago. Many more are unaware that animal testing even exists.
“Through Scarlett we can inform them about the cruel vivisection industry and what they can do to help: spread the word, support anti-vivisection charities and live a cruelty free life, buying products that have not been tested on animals – look for the ‘leaping bunny’ symbol and refer to the extensive list of companies that do not test on animals; they are easy to find.”
How have your dogs changed since coming to you, Donna?
Donna: “Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn have come a long way. They do have an occasional day where something might trigger some anxiety. You never know what it could be, it could be a sound, an object or something as simple the as color of a shirt.
“Gracie had more anxiety then Bailey Jane. When she first came out of the lab she would pace in circles but she learned pretty quick she was safe here and once she figured that out, her tail never stopped wagging.
“Before, they had never had a good quality food because they feed a poor quality food in the labs so that they don’t generate as much waste, and so both girls ate very fast.
Gracie Lynn and Bailey Jane
“I bought one of those slow feed bowls and it worked great for Bailey Jane. She eats relaxed and slowly now. Gracie Lynn still acts like it’s her last meal, she’s a typical Beagle in that she loves her food.
“Neither of the girls like you to approach them from a standing position and Gracie still doesn’t like being picked up.
“They are both very well adjusted to their new life, they are spoiled rotten.”
And although Scarlett has been with you for less time than Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn have been with Donna, we imagine you have seen changes too, Janie?
Janie: “After one year with us, Scarlett continues to show many fears and phobias – and may do so for life – but there have also been big breakthroughs.
“Through spending time with other dogs, Scarlett has learned to play. This is an important part of a puppy’s development, but of course, Scarlett was incarcerated for the first two years of her life; her first year of freedom literally became her puppyhood where she learned to explore the world for the first time.
“Through plenty of exercise and a proper diet (they are fed dried pellets in the lab and kept barely alive), she has reached her full weight and has become a strong girl with incredible stamina.
“Scarlett has been going to puppy school for several months and although she has anxious days where she wants to leave, as time goes by she has grown in confidence, learning to walk beside us, whether on or off lead (although as a beagle she prefers to be independent and walk ahead of us following her nose!). She has also learned the ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ commands.
Scarlett meeting Harry, her brother from the laboratory
“Scarlett has learned how to use her nose and found her calling as a scent hound. She has gone from simply staring at a fox to chasing it enthusiastically (on lead). We walk Scarlett mainly off lead but if there is a deer around we put her on lead quickly so she doesn’t chase it – instead she Aroos (bays) excitedly.
“Finding her voice was wonderful. Initially, we feared the lab may have de-barked her (i.e., cut her vocal chords, a practice in some labs so they don’t have to listen to beagle cries). She then surprised us one day by letting out a bark of excitement, then within days, she learned to bay excitedly.
Scarlett and Janie / Photo Credit: Joseph Sinclair for K9 Magazine
“More than anything, Scarlett shows us huge amounts of love. If you had spent years in a lab being tortured by a species, would you have that capacity to forgive and love? Remember that one year to a dog is the equivalent to about seven years to a human, so Scarlett was incarcerated and tortured for the equivalent of fourteen human years. Yet despite that, she showers us with love.”
How have your lives changed since adopting your dogs?
Donna: “It’s made me a more patient person because you have to have patience and remember that they do not know how to be a dog. They are not potty trained, they have never had toys or a bed to lay in. They don’t even know how to drink from a bowl. Everything is new to them. They need time, patience and lots of love. And treats, lots of treats.
Gracie Lynn with her beloved stuffed toys
“The best part of rescuing Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn is knowing that I saved these amazing dogs from certain death. Watching them overcome their fears little by little until they knew they were safe.
“It’s an amazing feeling to watch that defeated look in their eyes on release day turn into the happy little dogs they are today, that’s the best part.”
Bailey Jane with her favourite piece of denim
Janie: “Scarlett is our angel, the love she gives sustains us. Although she has been rescued from certain death, we feel that it is her that has rescued us.
“Scarlett gets a two hour, five mile walk every day, plus a late evening ‘round the block’ walk before bedtime, keeping us fit and healthy. She is also a constant reminder of the need to live a cruelty-free life so that we attain to no animals being harmed through what we buy and eat.
“We feel enormously privileged in our duty to make this wrong a right for her. She is a beagle and deserves the life of a beagle, just as nature intended. No animal deserves to be a cruel experiment for profit. We do not believe any good has come from Animal experimentation – ever.”
After reading your girls’ stories, I’m sure more people than ever feel the same. What’s been the best thing about adopting Scarlett, Janie?
“Although we cannot take the credit for Scarlett’s release from the laboratory – that is due to the wonderful Rescue + Freedom Project – the best thing has to be the pure joy of being with her every day.
“As well as showering us with love, Scarlett is very funny – she poses like a meerkat when she wants attention – and is wonderful with children and other dogs. She is highly intelligent, she observes and learns and we are very proud to be her parents.
“Through Scarlett, we are able to talk about her story to every stranger we meet. Slowly, but surely, Scarlett is helping to educate people about the horrors and sheer uselessness of animal experimentation.
“Beagles in labs deserve to be adopted and given a proper life. I would recommend people who truly love dogs do this. It is such a positive thing to turn around a life like this, the rewards come back a hundredfold.
“And now Scarlett is an ambassador for FLOE! Our lives have a true purpose.”
And finally, what one piece of advice would you give to anyone interested in adopting a dog?
Donna: “If you have the opportunity and patience, do it! It is so rewarding. Every milestone is a celebration. It’s not always easy, but it's worth every minute. I love Bailey Jane and Gracie Lynn with all my heart. We have a very special bond.”
Janie: “Adopting a dog has special rewards. One is the joy of turning life around for an individual as opposed to lining the pockets of a puppy producer. Adopting an ex-laboratory dog has even greater rewards. To see them grow from fear and helplessness to the enjoyment of simple pleasures is priceless.
“As with any rescue dog, do your homework on the characteristics of the breed and find out as much as you can about their background so you know what to expect and how to deal with it. Most of all, be kind, patient and loving at all times; this is where you develop a true, loving, unbreakable bond.
Scarlett running free
“Beagles are fun and a very kind breed. To see Scarlett playing with a ball or stick or 'arooing' on her walk around the block at night is sheer joy.
“Most of all, seeing her snuggled safely on the bed with us after another blissful day – this is such a beautiful feeling. She is safe with us, never to be hurt again.”