DURHAM — Police Officer Murphy was looking to take a bite out of animal testing labs Saturday at the Beaglefest 2013 gathering in Durham.
After playing with old friends and new at the Sunny Acres Pet Resort, Murphy dressed to impress in his blue uniform, complete with cap, nightstick and handcuffs. The beagle flashed a grin at mom Kristy LaLonde when the judges named him this year’s best costume contest winner.
Beaglefest, now in its seventh year, raises money for the nonprofit, volunteer Triangle Beagle Rescue group. The money will be used to pay for surgeries for injured dogs and other pet care, board member Tina Savarese said.
The group is taking in even more dogs, and although it partners with veterinary hospitals, the bills are skyrocketing, she said. Last year, the group raised roughly $3,000.
More than 100 beagles, along with their families and dog enthusiasts, romped in packs Saturday afternoon across a grassy field, noses to the ground and stirring up dust. They splashed in the kiddie pool to clean up and cool down.
Topline K9 Obedience, based in Morrisville, operated an agility course for competitors, while area vendors sold homemade doggie treats and other items.
According to its website, Triangle Beagle Rescue has saved more than 1,500 beagles since first forming its network of foster homes in 1999. Most are surrendered dogs, Savarese said. Beagle owners said they are lovable, good with other animals and easily identified by their distinctive howl. They also are more pack-minded than other dogs and have an exceptional sense of smell.
Murphy knows there are some bad animal testing labs out there. He and 30 other beagles were rescued three years ago from a Professional Laboratory and Research Services testing facility in Corapeake, N.C., about 160 miles northeast of Raleigh. In fact, Murphy will be the poster child for animal cruelty in next year’s Humane Society campaign, LaLonde said.
“He’s a special dog. They’re all very special,” LaLonde said.
A 2010 PETA investigation uncovered violence, abuse and neglect at the PLRS lab, where staff tested animal products, such as tick and flea sprays and spot treatments, on dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals. PLRS closed shortly after the investigation and surrendered its animals.
Triangle Beagle Rescue placed 16 dogs in Florida homes, Savarese said. The remainder went to North Carolina foster homes to wait for a permanent place.
Six dogs, including Murphy, returned Saturday to meet the crowd, get reacquainted and share their stories. A booth at the event had placards with the dogs’ photos and stories on them.
LaLonde, who lives in Edenton, said the dogs are healthier and happier but still struggle through what they endured. She writes in Murphy’s story that he trembled violently, hiding until her son coaxed him out. LaLonde said she cried when Murphy finally wrapped his paws around her leg.
“It was heartbreaking,” she wrote.
Most were inbred at the lab; they were found with urine burns, sitting in their own waste. None had been out of their cages, and they still have problems going outside to use the bathroom, their owners said. For a long time, they just ran around in circles.
They are still startled by the slightest noise or a sudden movement. Some are deathly afraid of peanut butter, typically a dog’s favorite treat, they said.
“The formative years of their lives were different than any other dog,” her husband and board member Dan Savarese said.