SCARBOROUGH — Willow the beagle is friendly, outgoing and she’s loving a new activity: chew toys.
Her sister, Ivy, is shy and hides behind the couch, but loves to cuddle.
The two puppies, both just under a year old, are among the 100 beagles flown to Maine on Sept. 4 that were rescued from a mass-breeding facility in Virginia.
Until their rescue, the dogs knew life only from the inside of a kennel. The facility, Envigo RMS, was shut down by a federal court because of Animal Welfare Act violations, including claims of nursing beagles being denied food and dogs fed food contaminated with mold, maggots and feces.
Envigo bred the dogs to sell for medical experiments. In all, nearly 4,000 beagles were rescued.
“Over a period of eight weeks, 25 puppies died because of exposure to the cold,” said Katie Hansberry, Maine state director for the Humane Society of the United States.
In addition, beagles at the facility with treatable medical issues were not given care, Hansberry said, “rather they were just choosing to euthanize them.”
For the rescued beagles, their future is bright. The Humane Society of the United States worked to place the dogs in shelters across the country for adoption.
Most of the Maine dogs are in foster homes while their permanent placements are being decided. Jeana Roth of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland of Westbrook said a few have been adopted, and there will be more adoptions in the coming weeks.
Since their arrival, the beagles are at different stages, Roth said.
“The younger ones are facing an easier transition,” she said, while the older dogs, who spent more time at the mass-breeding facility, need more time and training before being adopted. They’re getting used to doors, windows, yards, other dogs and cats. Each beagle “has their own path, settling in and enjoying the life of human companionship,” Roth said.
The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland received 25 of the 100 beagles. Fin, who was at the Virginia facility the longest, is the oldest. He’s believed to be about 4 and was used for breeding. Fin will need patience to help him adjust, Roth said.
“He’s doing OK. He just got back to the shelter from his foster home,” Roth said. “We’re working to find him a permanent home.”
Fin will need an environment that is nurturing, calm and quiet.
“He had cats in his foster home. He was nervous about that,” Roth said, adding he’s startled by windows, stairs, the normal noise of a home. But Fin likes to be close to people. “His foster parent said Fin is super snuggly. He enjoys being next to her, sleeping with her.”
A few beagles are expected to be available for adoption this week at the Westbrook shelter, Roth said, adding that people are calling every day about adoptions, but the exact number of available dogs is not yet known. They’re working to find out how many foster parents are adopting the beagle they took in.
Of the other 75 beagles that went to shelters across Maine from Kennebunk to Oxford, “we hear they’re doing well,” Roth said. “We’re seeing updates on adoption photos.”
Katie Lisnik, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, has received photos from her beagles’ foster parents. One photo shows a beagle lounging on a couch, another of two beagles playing in a yard.
The Lewiston shelter received eight beagles. As of Saturday all were in foster homes.
“They’re doing very well, but we’re approaching adoption carefully,” she said.
The dogs are starting to adjust, but they don’t know how to live in homes and not be afraid when they hear a dishwasher, a doorbell.
“Everything is a new experience,” Lisnik said.
She’s heard from some of her foster parents that a few beagles can be aggressive with a high-value toy or treat, with no experience having one before.
Like Roth, Lisnik said the beagles are sweet with humans, and some may need more time adjusting to a cat or another dog.
Now that the 14-day quarantine has expired, “we’re not making the dogs available until we have a clear plan on how to meet and greet,” Lisnik said.
“We are encouraging people to submit applications online,” she said. The shelter will prescreen applicants and go from there.
Soon all of the 100 beagles will have good homes, Roth said.
On Saturday Cindy King of Scarborough smiled as she watched her foster dogs. Willow sniffed then pulled up a flower from the ground. Ivy sat in a relative’s lap. In recent days she’s heard them howl, “finding their beagle-inner voice.”
Willow and Ivy have been adopted by Megan and Howard King. Howard King is the nephew of Cindy King.
Megan King said her family loves dogs, but didn’t think they were ready to adopt so soon after their hound-mix, Lucy, died a month ago.
“My husband and I walked across the street to meet them,” Meagan said. “That did it. We fell in love with them. I fell in love with this one, Ivy. My husband fell in love with Willow.”
Still heartbroken over losing Lucy, meeting the two beagles happened for a reason, she said.
“They’re helping all of us.”
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