AWI Joins Forces with Shelters and Rescue Organizations to Save Hundreds of Animals from Lab Under Investigation for Abuse
A dramatic rescue occurred in September, when nearly 200 dogs and over 50 cats were saved from a North Carolina animal testing facility. The laboratory subsequently closed its doors after an undercover investigation documented abuse of the animals by workers at the facility. Quick work on the part of the Animal Welfare Institute, in partnership with the Humane Society of the U.S. and more than a dozen animal shelters and rescue groups, succeeded in placing all of the rescued animals, offering hope that they will find loving homes and solace after their ordeal.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) conducted the initial investigation1 that exposed the apparent cruelty at Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS), a rural lab located in Corapeake, North Carolina. PLRS was funded by large pharmaceutical companies to test insecticides and other chemicals used in companion animal products. For nine months, a PETA investigator worked undercover at the facility, and shot video showing animals in excruciating pain from procedures, as well as employees kicking, throwing, and dragging petrified dogs, violently slamming cats into cages, and screaming obscenities at the animals for showing fear and being uncooperative. Workers even failed to move the animals when they pressure sprayed the cage areas, soaking them and splashing caustic chemicals on already painful open sores.
"The exposure of this gratuitous cruelty underscores the need for stricter enforcement to protect animals in research facilities," says AWI President, Cathy Liss. AWI has long worked to promote better care and handling of animals used in research, and foster efforts to provide them with the opportunity to engage in natural, species-typical behaviors, while sparing them unnecessary pain, fear and distress.
Following its investigation, PETA filed formal complaints with local, state and federal authorities, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and submitted evidence to the local prosecutor’s office. Soon thereafter, the USDA inspected the facility and instigated a formal investigation - as did the local district attorney’s office. In the meantime, the lab agreed to surrender voluntarily its dogs and cats, and to cease research at the facility.
The ordeal for the animals was not over, however. Alerted to the situation on a Tuesday, AWI was told the deadline for placing the released animals was Friday - a scant three days to find shelter or have the animals face possible euthanization. (All rabbits who were test subjects at the facility were, in fact, euthanized.) From Tuesday to Friday, AWI staff members frantically worked the phones, calling on AWI's vast network and succeeding in getting all the dogs and cats placed. Over a dozen shelters and rescue groups from New Jersey to Florida were enlisted to take in the animals.
While lamenting the situation that gave rise to the rescue, Liss noted that in the present case, swift action saved lives: "This event serves as dramatic testament to what can happen when the humane community comes together to expose and oppose cruelty. AWI is extremely grateful to PETA for its investigation, to enforcement personnel at the USDA for its prompt action once the situation was revealed, and to the all the animal advocates who worked overtime to get these animals placed in shelters. Through the actions of many, hundreds of dogs and cats were rescued and given the chance to receive the care and compassion all animals deserve." As we go to press, three quarters of the rescued annuals have been adopted to "forever homes."
1 More information on PETA’s investigation of the lab is available online at: www.peta.org/features/professional-laboratory-and-research-services.aspx.
Animal shelters and/or rescues that have taken in dogs and cats from the NC lab:
In Dog We Trust
Associated Humane Societies
Carteret County Humane Society
Guilford County Animal Shelter
SAFE Haven for Cats
SPCA of Northeastern North Carolina
Triangle Beagle Rescue of NC
Wake County Animal Center
Wake County SPCA
Beagles to the Rescue
Elizabeth City SPCA
Virginia Beach SPCA
Washington Animal Rescue League