FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — It's a happy ending after all.
The process started Thursday to rescue 4,000 beagles from the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia.
Some of those dogs made their way to Homeward Trails, a rescue organization in Fairfax that partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to remove the beagles and secure foster and adoptive homes for them in the next 60 days. Homeward Trails previously moved about 500 dogs and successfully placed them for adoption. The organization received 21 beagles to their facility.
On Thursday, the first transfer of beagles was comprised of about 400 dogs, which included 106 puppies, to be split among an HSUS care and rehabilitation center and various rescue partners, according to a spokesperson for HSUS.
The rescue comes after Virginia legislative actions that were unanimously passed, with bipartisan support, referred to as the Beagle Bills.
“It’s a wonderful day for not just everything we’ve been trying to do, but for the beagles as well," said Virginia Sen. Bill Stanley (R). "I think it’s a great day for every person who loves dogs so I’m excited, it’s kind of like Christmas in July."
Stanley was a leading force behind the bills that led to the facility’s closure alongside Virginia Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D).
“We are the two senators who seemed to have the most passion for animals in the General Assembly so we got together and crafted a suite of bills,” Boysko said.
Both state senators attribute five total bills they helped bring forward to rescue the beagles from the Envigo facility.
Stanley previously adopted two beagles from the facility following his visits to the animal breeding and research facility.
“These are great, loving animals -- I’ve rescued two of them," Stanley said. "I can attest to the fact that they are so grateful to be alive and they renew your spirit in life because they have a renewed spirit of life when their feet first touch the grass and to be petted and loved and they curl up next to you on the couch."
WUSA9 first reported on the allegations against the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia on April 1. The company is contracted to breed dogs for the purpose of research and scientific experiments - regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
PETA investigators claim the facility performed unnecessarily painful medical experiments on dogs and puppies, including euthanasia without sedatives.
A senior U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon requested in early July that 4,000 beagles be removed from Envigo and put up for adoption. According to court documents, Moon required Envigo to pay $100 per dog, and $150 per dog nursing a litter younger than 8 weeks, to help defray the costs to the shelters preparing the dogs for adoption.
"This is one of the largest dog rescue efforts ever coordinated and has truly been a group effort," Sue Bell, executive director of Homeward Trails, told WUSA9 in early July. "To know that these dogs will get to have the lives they deserve and not languish in cages for the rest of their lives is just so rewarding."
The goal is to have the dogs placed in shelters over the next 60 days. To apply to adopt a beagle in the Washington, DC area from Homeward Trails, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find a list of other partner organizations here.