One of the rescue beagles is now a duchess!

One of the rescue beagles is now a duchess!
Photo/Beagle Freedom Project

By Kim Gilliam

We have all heard by now about the incredible rescue of 4,000 beagles from the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at the Envigo breeding and research plant in Virginia. Investigators visiting the facility on numerous occasions in 2021 and 2022 found nightmarish conditions, including beagles with severe and untreated medical issues, insufficient food and housed in filthy conditions, with hundreds found dead at the facility. Envigo is the second-largest producer of dogs for medical research, breeding roughly 25% of the beagles used in medical and drug research in the United States.

After the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Envigo agreed in July to release 4,000 beagles from the plant and shut down operations. The federal government and the company agreed to transfer the dogs to the Humane Society of the United States. Since then, the beagles have been moved to numerous shelters or groups around the country such as the Beagle Freedom Project, which places the dogs in foster homes for rehabilitation before finding their forever homes.

One of those beagles, Mamma Mia, has hit the new home jackpot. It was announced last week that her new residence is a sprawling estate in Montecito, California, where the 7-year-old dog will roam around a lush seven-acre property with her new owners, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The royal couple reached out to the Beagle Freedom Project in search of a new furry family member. Mia had been transported to California with eight of her newborn puppies – she had clearly been used as a breeding dog – after the Virginia rescue. Thankfully, Meghan Markle has had a rescue beagle for many years, and when she saw the story about Envigo’s shutdown she wanted to get involved. She knew puppies usually are easier to find homes for and wanted to help one of the older, more vulnerable dogs. After spending some time playing with Mia in the back yard, Markle was sold; Mia was going home with them.

It has been about six weeks since the beagles left Cumberland, and during this time rescue organizations have been treating medical issues, socializing and just getting to know these pups. Those that are healthy and ready for a new home are now being adopted out all over the country. A quick google search shows Envigo beagles being placed in homes everywhere from Tampa, Fla. to Ann Arbor, Mich., Asheville, N.C. to Spokane, Wash.

Hopefully some lasting good will come out of the dire circumstances discovered at Envigo. A bipartisan piece of legislation dubbed the “Beagle Bill” was signed into law in August by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), requiring animal research and testing facilities in that state which use dogs and cats to offer healthy animals for adoption once their time in research has ended.

Sadly, these animals traditionally would have faced euthanasia once their time in research concluded. Now, Massachusetts joins a dozen other states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, with similar laws that facilitate a relationship between laboratories and non-profit animal adoption organizations to give these animals a second chapter in their life as pets.

Would you like to add a rescued beagle to your family? While the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria recently posted that they found families for all of the beagles they received, Homeward Trails in Fairfax is one of the area non-profits helping to place a number of these dogs locally and the Tri County Animal Shelter is currently accepting applications for the 20 or so rescued beagles placed with them. You may not be able to make yours a Duke or a Duchess like Mia, but they’ll love you just the same!

The writer co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.