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Rehoming pets can be a complicated process to ensure the smooth transition of animals into their new home. Researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, monitored the rehoming of laboratory beagles for three years.

The study published in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals describes rehoming 16 beagles with the help of animal protection organizations. The beagles had formerly participated in animal cognition studies or had undergone minor procedures during veterinary drug developments.

In the laboratories, the dogs also had a socialization training program for several months, as is required by the Directive. Instead of euthanizing the experimental animals, they were rehomed instead, while the researchers kept track of the beagles adjusting to their new homes.



Rehoming Instead of Euthanasia

According to the European Council Directive, if certain conditions are met, such as the animal's health, they can be rehomed. Animals whose welfare might become compromised may undergo euthanasia.

The study is also Finland's first time to rehome laboratory dogs alongside SEY Animal Welfare Finland. Organizations such as the Laboratory Animal Science Association encourage rehoming practices and preparation for new homes' suitability.

Beagles have become popular experimental dogs due to their convenient size, high adaptability, and health. The breed is also more sociable than other canine breeds.

The beagles have lived in groups of eight in the laboratory between two to eight years. During their time at the university, they only had limited outside space and lived in smaller groups during the night.

The various studies they participated in included cognition research on the anatomy of canine minds. Some also participated in the development of veterinary drugs such as tranquilizer agents.

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Training Beagles for Rehoming

Depending on the dogs, practicing basic pet skills lasted between four to six months with designated veterinarians who provided animal welfare and handling advice. The socialization program also helped the beagles become familiar with the world outside the laboratory.

They were trained as two separate groups consisting of older beagles who were rehomed at eight years old, and then the younger dogs rehomed at two years old. All the beagles initially came from a commercial breeder in the Netherlands. During the four years of following up the beagles and their rehoming process, the laboratory no longer acquired new dogs.

Marianna Norring explained that the socialization training time was insufficient for some of the beagles. Several owners reported that their dogs suffered from separation anxiety and were timid.
Improvements for the rehoming process for future laboratory dogs can include separate lab facilities and rest areas. Dogs should also be able to have access to the outdoors and regularly walked with a leash.

During the socialization program, the beagles interacted with the researchers, animal caretakers, trainers, and animal-rights campaigners. Dogs were rehomed in pairs whenever possible, and in general, all the new owners gave positive reports about their pet beagles. The researchers hope that their new recommendations will lead to successful rehoming of laboratory dogs that will retire with a new family.

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Check out more news and information on Animal Welfare in Science Times.