October 04, 2022

‘They are starting over now’: Beagles bred for research meet foster families in South Elgin

SOUTH ELGIN, Ill. — Ninety-one beagles that had been bred for medical research in Virginia got a new lease on life when they were introduced to new foster families in South Elgin.

“They haven’t been on this earth very long,” Anderson Humane CEO Beth Foster told the foster families. “But the whole time, it’s been scary, and people have not always been very good to them.”

“This is the beginning of their new life,” she said.

Roughly 4,000 beagles were rescued in late July by the Humane Society of the United States from Envigo, a breeding facility in Virginia.

A federal judge had recently approved the rescue after U.S. Department of Agriculture officials found dozens of federal regulation violations that resulted in dogs being ill, injured and underfed and, in some cases, their death.

Three cargo vans set out from Anderson Humane to bring 100 of them to South Elgin and move them immediately into foster care. They returned just after midnight on Aug. 9 with 91 — all the dogs they could fit — and worked overnight to prepare them for pickup by 9 a.m.

The dogs, all males between 6 and 10 months old, had never been in a car before their trip to South Elgin and had never even stepped on grass until they arrived at the shelter.

Foster preached patience with the dogs to their new families.

“They come from a pretty non-routine, not very compassionate environment,” she said. “We know they’ve been used for research, but we don’t know what’s been done to them. But we do know that they are starting over now. And you guys are the beginning of that.”

Ellen Nabeti of Glen Ellyn said she and her partner had been talking about getting a second dog when they heard Anderson needed homes for the beagles. Her family is fostering with the intent to adopt.

“This just seemed like the perfect opportunity to help out,” Nabeti said. “These dogs sounded like they need a loving home, and they’re going to get plenty of love.”

The dogs were given to the foster families in travel crates and loaded into their cars so they wouldn’t get loose in the parking lot.

Goofy, the name one pup received less than a day ago, shook nervously in a crate as Nabeti peered in to reassure him.

“We’ll get him home and make sure he knows that he’s got love and a safe place,” Nabeti said. “Hopefully, he gets past whatever happened to him before he came to us and finds some happiness. Because I know he’s going to bring us a lot of happiness.”

With a population of over 500 animals — roughly half of which are in foster homes and the remainder at adoption centers in South Elgin, Bloomingdale and North Aurora — Anderson was able to take only so many dogs by placing them immediately in foster care.

Dog crates were stacked in any available hallway in the shelter as they prepped the dogs for their new homes.

Dean Daubert, Anderson Humane’s chief operations officer, said they got about three times as many foster applications as they had beagles.

“There’s been such a demand for the beagles, but there are plenty of other animals in the system that would love a home,” he said.

Droves of volunteers shuttled the dogs back and forth between medical checks, outside potty trips and crates before the foster families arrived.

Lisa Knecht-Sabres of St. Charles started volunteering at the shelter about a year ago, just after her beagle Buddy died.

In addition to volunteering with the beagles when they arrived overnight, she will be fostering one, as well.

“When I heard a few weeks ago that there were 4,000 beagles to be released in Virginia, I honestly thought it was part of my calling in life,” she said. “It’s just too perfect.”

The dogs will each be brought back to be neutered. Anderson will also do full medical checkups and have any needed dental work.

Andrew Callas of Chicago, who has a beagle at home, said he wasn’t thinking about adding another dog to the mix in his family until he read about the plight of these dogs.

“I’ve always been a huge advocate for beagles, and I’ve been so lucky with mine already. Bringing another home to a family that is loving and caring is my way of being able to give back,” he said.

Like everyone else there, Callas knew only that he was getting a beagle. But he had no idea of the gender or age or needs the dog might have until he got there.

“This exceeded my expectations,” Callas said. “He’s so cute, and I love his colors. I’m so excited. I can’t even tell you.”