Our View: Dog days

Our View: Dog days
Puppy Bixby plays with his toy. (Photo/Animal Welfare League of Alexandria)

Virginia may be for lovers, but Alexandria is definitely for dog lovers.

Our city’s love affair with canines is on display daily in Alexandria’s parks, on neighborhood sidewalks and in outdoor eateries. We have a plethora of stores that provide goods and services for dogs – and, yes, cats too. Cadres of people are employed as dog walkers and washers, while our doggie daycare facilities are full and have waiting lists.

Virtually every neighborhood in Alexandria has a dog park, many fenced, shady and welcoming. Our citizenry loves pooches, and our local government accommodates this affair by enacting dog-friendly ordinances.

Numerous studies have shown that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure, exercise more and have better social-emotional health than non-owners. For instance, a BMC Public Health study published in 2017 showed that older dog owners, defined as age 65 and up, walked on average more than 2,700 additional steps than their non-canine-owning peers.

The at times crushing isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic was somewhat mitigated by an explosion in dog adoptions. People who had considered pet ownership took the plunge, while others added a second or third dog to their pack. According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 23 million Americans – nearly one in five households – adopted a pet during the pandemic.

So, it should surprise exactly no one that after multiple violations of federal regulations were found at the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland, Virginia, our city’s residents and institutions stepped up to help provide homes for some of the 4,000 beagles. Alexandrians are as philanthropic as we are dog-crazy, making the Envigo crisis a fitting match in this city.

Two pieces in this week’s Alexandria Times, our page 1 story, “Bringing home 4,000 beagles,” and Kim Gilliam’s pet column, “One of the rescue beagles is now a duchess!” dis- cuss different aspects of this simultaneously sad and heartwarming saga.

We were not surprised to learn that the demand for rescued beagles outpaced the supply in Alexandria, as the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has already adopted out all of the Envigo dogs it received. However, other Northern Virginia organizations such as Homeward Trails in Fairfax, the Tri County Animal Shelter and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Arlington still had Envigo beagles as of the Times’ press time.

The less feel-good aspect of this story is the fact that so many beagles, a breed that many of us know and love, are being used for medical research. While most people are aware that medical research takes place, we likely envision fruit flies, hamsters or Guinea Pigs as the subjects.

It’s more shocking, though perhaps it shouldn’t be, to focus on the fact that thousands of dogs at a time are bred for the purpose of testing medical treatments for humans.

The ethics of that conundrum are disturbing, and perhaps a topic for another day. But there’s no denying that the generosity of Alexandrians is affirming.