WISE COUNTY They may now seem like pampered pets, but eight months ago, beagles Chip and Dale were known only by the numbers tattooed in their ears.
'They spent the first two-and-a-half years of their life in a laboratory,' said their adoptive owner, Danielle Morris. 'They were tested on and pretty much tortured. They were never taken out of their crates; they were never loved on; they never got good food or attention. They just never got really the chance to live like dogs.'
An estimated 65,000 dogs are kept in laboratories nationwide, according to the Beagle Freedom Project. Most of the dogs used for scientific experimentation are beagles, according to the BFP, bred for the job because their kind is so docile.
'Dogs are tested on everything from your typical products in your household like your dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, your toothpaste, your makeup... and then, of course, your pharmaceuticals,' explained Shannon Keith, president of the Beagle Freedom Project. 'They've probably had toxins pumped into them, shoved down their throats. They've had substances put in their eyes. They've been shaved ... They've been handled not well. They've probably not known a kind touch, never had a toy. Never had a treat.'
Keith said the mission of the Beagle Freedom Project is to negotiate the release of research dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.
'These laboratories do not want to release these dogs,'she said. 'They do not want the world knowing that they test on dogs, even if we don't release the name of the lab.'
So far, the BFP has helped free about 200 animals.
The first release in Texas took place July 9 in Hutto, near Austin.
Seven nervous beagles were gently carried from their cages, brought into the sunshine, to feel grass on their paws for perhaps the very first time in their lives.
The ages of the dogs are uncertain; several are estimated to be about nine years old. The five female and two male dogs were rescued from a border-area laboratory and are now with foster families.
These dogs were given names instead of numbers: Candy, Luca, Frida, Dolly, Nina, Bobby and Grumpy.
Danielle Morris traveled across the country to Memphis last year to witness the moment Chip and Dale became 'Freegles.'
'They were just scared,' she said through tears. 'I just could not believe that they did that to these little dogs, because you look at them, and they didn't miss a beat. They didn't even know about what life could be.'
Chip and Dale are living the good life now. They both relish eating treats. Chip enjoys playing with toys and is very social. Dale likes to run after sticks and savors lounging on the couch.
The two freed beagles are loving being loved.
The Beagle Freedom Project is working on legislation called that mandates labs release dogs and cats to a non-profit rescue organization instead of being euthanized. The Beagle Freedom Law recently passed in Minnesota.