CAMDEN — Nine beagles felt grass under their paws for the first time, Sunday afternoon, in Camden.
After a ride from Portland in a P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center van, each was unloaded from pet carriers in the PAWS parking lot. Many shook. Some drooled. The smell of vomit lingered. Several plopped down into lounging positions wherever the volunteers set them down to walk.
For at least the first half hour of adjustment period, volunteers wondered if these dogs could bark. Did they even know how? Had they been debarked?
The nine are a part of a massive confiscation effort that removed approximately 4,000 dogs from a breeding facility in Virginia this past week. That facility, Envigo RMS LLC facility in Cumberland, Virginia, bred dogs to be sold to laboratories for animal experimentation. When the experiments were done, the dogs were euthanized. Last week, Envigo was shut down due to violations.
“These are lucky dogs,” said PAWS Board member Michelle Davis.
The 4,000 that were confiscated had not yet been sent to testing labs. However, life was still spent in cages. Sofas and bathtubs, leashes, and socialization didn’t exist. In the facility, they were housed by age and gender – which might explain why all nine PAWS inductees are females and no older than 1 year.
“They don’t have any idea what it’s like to live with humans or be around other animals,” said PAWS executive director Shelly Butler.
During the drive to Camden, which is the final Maine shelter to receive the pups, one beagle vocalized an irritation for motorcycles, according to the PAWS volunteer who met the plane. Aside from that, the trip was silent.
Shelters have been inundated with animals recently, according to Butler, so finding places to take these animals was a challenge. But in the knowledge of the canine’s prospects of an otherwise dark future, “how could we not,” said Butler.
After spending time at a veterinary medical facility in Maryland, where each dog’s inner ear was tattooed with an individual identification code, the Maine four-pawed contingent flew to Portland, and started on a new journey. Five went to Pope Memorial Humane Society in Thomaston. Around the state, eight more shelters opened their doors.
On the lawn at PAWS, some dogs were quick to explore, to sniff the fences, the dirt. After a time, some expanded their safety zones to include a dumpster, a boulder across the parking lot. Eventually, one dog was heard to growl. A couple of dogs found their legs and began to run.
The dogs will remain in quarantine for 14 days, according the Butler. Some may be placed in foster-to-adopt programs in order to learn a little socialization.
“The least amount of time they need to be in the shelter is how we want that to be,” she said.
In the meantime, interested community members may come to PAWS this coming Tuesday, Sept. 6, between 1 – 4 p.m., to view the beagles,
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org