A new leash on life: Beagles rescued from Virginia breeding facility adopted out of Humane Society of Jefferson Co.

JEFFERSON, Wis. — There’s a happy ending for some beagles at the Humane Society of Jefferson County in Wisconsin whose story had a dark beginning — they were among the thousands rescued from the troubled Envigo breeding facility in Virginia. 

“We got five beagles in from the seizure thanks to our friends at Wisconsin Humane Society,” HSJC executive director Jeff Okazaki said.

Among those five was Molly. On Friday, she was happy fetching her toys and getting cuddles, probably loving it even more considering where she came from.  

“When I took her home just as a quick kind of one-evening foster, she was more comfortable on our concrete driveway than she was on our grass yard,” Okazaki said. 

Molly and her two sisters and brothers were among thousands of beagles rescued from Envigo, where they were being bred and sold for experimentation in pharmaceutical and other industries.

RELATED: 4,000 beagles will be rescued from a Virginia breeding facility 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the dogs were living in their own filth, denied medical treatment, and many were killed or wounded from fighting in close quarters. They found at least 300 puppies died from January 1, 2021, to July 21, 2021. 

“They had dogs stacked sometimes six to eight deep in a cage I believe,” Okazaki said. “There are cases of, they were starving mothers in order to help them wean some of the puppies off of them after they were born.”  

Early this summer, roughly 600 dogs who were deemed in life-threatening danger were removed from the facility first.

Our veterinarian was actually on the rapid response team that went out to Virginia to do the assessment on, it was about 4,000 or 5,000 dogs,” Okazaki said. 

After being sued by the Department of Justice and settling – without paying any fees — Envigo’s owner, Inotiv, announced it is closing the facility in July. 

The Humane Society of the United States announced the last of the 4,000 Beagles were removed last week. They were sent to humane societies across the country in search of better homes.  

But many like Molly and her sisters got something else important with their freedom – their names.  

“All of the dogs that came in had these large, kinds of tattoos on their ear,” said Okazaki, pulling up Molly’s ear to reveal the “CNA CKD” crudely stamped underneath.  

“And it’s just a little bit heartbreaking to think, that this could have been her name,” he said.   

But for many animals that come through the humane society in Jefferson, naming can be the easy part.

“When Molly and her friends first got here, they were pretty scared,” Okazaki said. “It’s — the facility where they’re coming from — they’re not really getting a lot of socialization, they’re not getting a lot of time.”  

While beagles are known for good temperament and being people-pleasers, it always takes time and vetting to make sure all the different animals from difficult pasts find a good home.

“Especially for dogs that have come from abuse situations, more typically in an individual home, that you can see some different behavior that they would have,” Okazaki said. “For like a larger dog or maybe for a dog that has had a more traumatic past we look for somebody who maybe has more experience handling that type of animal.”  

Molly’s sisters were adopted within a week after they arrived.

According to Okazaki, Molly herself fetched 10-15 applicants, and she’ll be wagging her tail home with one of them within days.  

“Having these beagles come in on our 100th anniversary is just really fitting for us,” he said, “to be able to say that this is everything about what we do. It’s allowing us to make a difference and it’s really fantastic.”