Ric Browde, president and CEO of Wings of Rescue, presents a beagle to Karen Robinson of the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk at the Portland International Jetport on Sunday. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

A Wings of Rescue plane landed at the Portland Jetport on Sunday, delivering 100 beagles to organizations that will find them new homes in Maine.

The dogs are the latest of nearly 4,000 beagles rescued from a Virginia facility that intended to sell them to animal testing labs. Using dogs for lab testing is legal, but federal investigators found beagles were neglected, abused and lived in horrific conditions, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

One by one, each crated beagle was unloaded onto a conveyor belt and placed in rows on the tarmac by animal shelter staff and volunteers.

Some of them were crying and screaming. Sunday, most had no name.



The dogs were then transported in 14 vans to be transported to shelters throughout Maine.

“We are truly honored to play a part in these beagles’ final destinations in our state to find wonderful homes here,” Jeana Roth of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland told Westbrook. Taking in the beagles is one of the shelter’s biggest rescue efforts, she said.

Of the 100 beagles, 25 went to the Westbrook shelter, including Fin, who had been at the facility in Virginia the longest “and was the very last beagle to leave the facility,” Roth said. He spent his life in a kennel, used for breeding.

The other 75 went to nine shelters in Maine, from Kennebunk to Lewiston to Camden. The ages of the dogs range from puppies to about 5 years old, which would be Fin’s age.

Marc Gup, a volunteer with the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, greets two beagles unloaded from a Wings of Rescue plane at Portland International Airport on Sunday. About 100 beagles were brought to Portland, part of 4,000 beagles rescued from a breeding facility in Virginia where the USDA found abusive conditions. Numerous animal shelters across the state have retrieved the beagles, including 25 by the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. Dogs must be quarantined for two weeks before they can be adopted. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

Dogs will undergo a two-week quarantine where their health and behavioral needs will be assessed. The beagles at the Westbrook shelter “all have foster homes lined up,” Roth said, as do most dogs placed in other Maine shelters.

During the flight to Maine, the beagles did well, said Ric Browde, CEO and president of Wings of Rescue, a nonprofit that transports rescued animals.

“They were surprisingly quiet,” he said, adding that howling beagles usually go to the back of the plane. “They are the most pleasantly behaved. Whoever is lucky enough to adopt these pets wins the lottery.

While using dogs for lab testing is legal in the United States, it shouldn’t be, said Katie Hansberry, Maine state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Ric Browde, president and CEO of Wings of Rescue, unloads a beagle into a crate at the Portland International Jetport on Sunday. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

The dogs were bred in a mass breeding facility owned and operated by Envigo RMS. In this case, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Envigo for numerous violations of animal welfare law. Violations included nursing beagles being denied food and dogs being fed food contaminated with mold, maggots and feces, Hansberry said.

“In eight weeks, 25 puppies died from exposure to cold,” she said.

Additionally, due to the overcrowded conditions at the facility, many beagles were injured in dog fights, and Envigo did not provide medical treatment for dogs with very treatable conditions, Hansberry said.

“Instead, they were just choosing to euthanize them,” she said.

A beagle waits to be transferred to a van after being unloaded from a Wings of Rescue plane at the Portland International Jetport on Sunday. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

Earlier this summer, a U.S. district court judge issued a restraining order imposing a series of restrictions on the facility, and company officials announced plans to shut it down.

Speaking to reporters at Jetport, Hansberry said she hopes her big smile conveys her joy at welcoming the beagles to Maine where they will go to loving homes.

“I have chills and goosebumps thinking of bringing these beagles home,” she said.

They had a horrible life at the Virginia facility, but these beagles “are the lucky ones,” Hansberry said. “They are ambassadors for the nearly 60,000 dogs, just like them, used in labs for medical testing across the country. We hope this will raise awareness of this, and finally see a future where no dogs are tested in labs.

Ashley Wright of Wings of Rescue holds a beagle at the Portland International Jetport on Sunday. Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

In addition to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, shelters that have rescued beagles include the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, the Franklin County Humane Society in Farmington, the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta, the PAWS Animal Adoption Center in Camden, the Pope Memorial Humane Society in Thomaston, Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills south of Paris and Tall Tails Beagle Rescue in Mechanic Falls.

Some beagles will be placed for adoption. People interested in adopting a beagle should keep a close eye on shelter websites near them, Roth recommended.

She predicts that everything will be broken, saying interest is high.

“It’s a special state. Mainers love their animals,” Roth said. “They love their dogs and are treated like family. We’ll have no problem finding these wonderful beagle homes where they are cherished and have the life they deserve.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


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