Freedom and Liberty

beagles3Independence Day is a day of great celebration at my house. In fact, it is the only party that I host all year. The party is today, and I’m expecting 50 to 60 people this evening.

Unlike certain people and Presidents, I do not apologize for being American. This is the day I celebrate with my friends and family the fact that this is the greatest country ever created. On July 2, 1776 (yes, it wasn’t actually July 4) the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. On July 4 they approved the formal Declaration we all know.

This was the document marking the birth of this nation. My den has many pictures and photos on the wall, but the one that hangs over the desk where I work and write and think has a large painting of George Washington addressing that Congress so that I always remember the toil and sacrifice those great men made so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Those words have been called the most potent and consequential words in American History.

Freedom. Freedom is the ability to make choices without constraint.

Liberty. Liberty is the right to behave according to one’s own personal responsibility and free will.

Have you ever considered that the root word of liberate is liberty? A few weeks ago we got a call from our friends at Best Friends. They had been contacted by Win Animal Rights (WAR), a New York City based organization that had gotten wind of an animal testing lab in New Jersey that had gone bankrupt. There were 120 Beagles and 55 monkeys that had been left there to die.

66,000 dogs and 26,000 cats were used in labs in 2005. While some of the animals are purpose bred (like our beagles), meaning that they are born to be experimented on and then disposed of, but most are supplied by so-called Class B dealers who buy them from auctions, shelters and newspaper ads and send them to the labs.

So our beagles were born with neither freedom nor liberty, while most lab animals have both their freedom and liberty taken away.

Are animals entitled to liberty? That’s a debate for another time. I believe they are within the context of our stewardship of them. In researching this blog I came across a succinct argument that sums it up:

Any animal that has the capacity for suffering pain has a right not to be tortured; and the reason for this is connected with the fact that suffering pain is intrinsically bad. Similarly, if we grant to men a right to liberty simply because we regard liberty as something good in itself which men are capable of enjoying, then we must also grant a right to liberty to any other animal that is capable of desiring to act one way rather than another.


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Lab animals suffer. They are in steel cages most of their lives without contact with other animals and with people who treat them as objects rather then sentient beings. They are called companion animals for a reason. They are meant to be our companions and we have a moral responsibility to care for them.

Kerry was very excited as our caravan of four white vans headed toward the lab in New Jersey where we would pick up our beagles. “These are animals that were bred to be experimented on and thrown away. They were never meant to have homes, never meant to be loved, never meant to have lives. And now they will.”

beagles1I thought about that a lot yesterday and repeated it to the press many times. It is the essence of why we exist as a humane organization.

When we pulled up to the lab I was surprised at how nondescript it was. It looked like a house with some outbuildings, even though if you looked closely there was security fence around the entire property and none of the buildings had any windows. Great way to live.

They wouldn’t let us all on the property and they wouldn’t let more than one van in at at time. Kerry and I went in first.

We were greeted by four guys, two in Tyvek suits with earplugs in their ears. We would not be allowed in the area where the dogs lived, but they would be brought out one at a time and placed in the van. Standing around talking to these guys I was struck by the contradiction of their affection for the animals and their enabling their suffering. One of them actually decided to adopt one of the animals in their “care.” They asked us to be sure to keep the air conditioner on for the dogs and to take good care of them.

When we stopped for gas just before we got there we ran into a former employee of the lab who told us that they were going to start performing “electrical testing” on the dogs just before they closed, and I wondered how the guys in the Tyvek suits could possibly live with themselves for allowing that to happen.

The first Beagle came out. There was a number on her crate but no name. These dogs are nameless. She was so small. She was absolutely beautiful. And gentle. And terrified. How much had she endured? What had been done to her? What was her life like? The thought of her being experimented on cast a dark shadow across my soul that left me with a combination of despair and profound anger.

libertyWe needed more crates, so it was decided that Molly, the photographer from Best Friends and I would drive back with the first vanload of Beagles and get things ready for the rest. As we were leaving Molly thought we could fit one more if she rode in her lap. I thought this was a great idea. Molly walked back up the driveway and returned with another sweet little Beagle.

We named her Liberty. She had never seen a van before. Never been in motion (she vomited violently). Never been in someone’s lap. She was scared for the first half hour and didn’t really do much as we rode through the back roads of New Jersey. We got a peek into her sweet, gentle nature though. One of the sickest dogs was in the crate closest to our seats. Every time he would stir she would look at him and wag her tail. It was really heartwarming.

When she got comfortable, she was interested in everything. She poked her nose against the window. She climbed on to the center console. She tried to jump over into my lap. She licked Molly’s hand. She swatted at Molly’s camera. And every now and then I would reach over and gently rub the side of her face. She leaned into my hand and closed her eyes. I’ve always thought dogs know when they’re safe, and while their lives had suddenly expanded so far beyond the sterile metal cubbyholes they lived in alone, they all knew they were finally free.

Freedom. It’s truly relative, isn’t it? In China today you can’t even surf the Internet without being censored. In North Korea three generations of your family can go to the slave labor camp if you say something negative about Kim Jong Il. And freedom for Liberty can mean something as simple as feeling the warmth of the sun on her face.

scaredWe saw the American flags and the bunting as we pulled into Pets Alive, and we were swallowed up in a sea of Pets Alive t-shirts and cooing voices and loving arms for each of these sweet animals, and it really touched me. I went up into my office to be alone for a few minutes and returned to the pasture that the dogs would call home.

I have to tell you that being at Pets Alive has brought me pain that is so deep and so profound that it is debilitating. But it also brings joy that is absolutely indescribable. As I walked down the driveway across the street from my office I felt that deep, uplifting, amazing joy that is almost overpowering. It was amazing. There was a line of people curled around the table where Janet and Jen were examining each dog. Every person had a beagle in their arms. They were being cradled gently and lovingly. Every single dog was being hugged by someone in a Pets Alive T-shirt. Some were scared, leaning against their person, trying to bury their little heads in their shirt. Some were thrilled to be held, little eyes darting back and forth trying to drink it all in.

What brought me such joy were their tails. Every single one was wagging. Some were thumping gently against their person’s stomach. Some were whipping wildly back and forth. But every single dog was happy. They may never have gotten this much love, but they knew how wonderful it was right from the beginning. And that’s freedom for them as far as I’m concerned.

beagles4It was difficult for me to not get choked up walking through their living areas. The tail wagging continued unabated. It was absolutely amazing. As we started pairing them up (same sex because they’re not altered) I could see them sniffing each other tentatively. In minutes they were chasing each other around the kennels. I saw one tackle another and start playing. I could hear little Anna squealing as two of them chased her while the two in the next kennel stuck their noses through the fencing to play with the bottom of her clothes.

But what touched me the most profoundly was Liberty. She was sprawled out in the middle of her kennel in a patch of sunlight that was shining in to her area. Her mouth was open and she had a face of contentment and happiness. Her kennelmate was inches away from her enjoying the sunlight as well. She was four years old and had never seen the sun, or felt the grass, or ever seen another animal let alone lie next to one.

Our eyes locked and her tail started wagging. She has her freedom from pain and captivity and anonimity. And she has liberty, even if that just means she can lie in the sun when she wants to.

I watched a beagle walk tentatively on the grass for the first time and felt the same joy in my heart. Later I took one of them out of her crate and stood in line with her. She was wet from her own vomit and obviously scared. I had to coax her out of the crate because she was afraid to put her paws down on the grass. But the whole time that tail wagged and she looked at me with love in her eyes.

I placed her gently with another dog and watched her freeze on the grass, sniff it a few times and take her first tentative steps toward the other dog. They sniffed, tails wagged and they were pals. Just like that. Another dog free.

This morning when I opened my eyes to Roscoe and Tyson running at full speed across my bedroom floor, one of my socks dangling from Roscoe’s mouth I thought of these little dogs who had been bred to be experimented on and then thrown away like sponges or test tubes. In my mind’s eye I saw Liberty running across the room with one of my socks in her mouth and I laughed out loud.

Freedom and Liberty are something we are born with. Something we celebrate on this Independence Day, with fireworks and barbeques and Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. But let’s also take a moment to celebrate the lives of these animals that we have had the honor to liberate this weekend, and pause to mourn the lives of those we haven’t.

Thank you to Best Friends Animal Society for being our best friends, thanks to Camille and W.A.R. for caring about these sweet animals, thanks to Anthony and our friends at Enterprise for scaring up four vans and charging us next to nothing for them. Thanks to our friends in the media for coming out to record this event. Thanks to our wonderful volunteers and supporters who showed up in droves to shower these sweet gentle animals with love. And thanks to all of you who support us for giving Kerry and I the honor of doing what we do.

God Bless America.

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Filed in Animal Rescue, No-kill by Admnistrator on Jul 03, 2010.  There are 42 Comments

42 Responses to “Freedom and Liberty”

  1. Tweets that mention Pets Alive Blog » Freedom and Liberty -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Ruth Glasmire Says:

    Dear Matt, There are tears running down my face while I am typing this. What a wonderful way to celebrate this 4th of July holiday! My mom and I have sent $ to name 2 of the Beagles. I wish I lived closer to your place so that I could volunteer for you! I had a beagle growing-up. She was my bestest buddy. Thank you and all the other groups and people who joined in this amazing effort.

  3. Ruth Purcell Says:

    What a wonderful thing you did. I have two beagles ages 11 and 6. I was crying watching the video. You gave independence weekend a whole new meaning.

  4. Cathy Casper Says:

    Bravo to Pets Alive! What a wonderful story for this 4th of July! Wonderfully written! I live in NC so I cannot help out but I can forward on this wonderful story. I have a beagle now and she is the sweetest, prettiest little thing. Cannot imagine her being experimented on! She is a real companion who loves to nap on a bed, any bed, anywhere.
    Hate animal testing anyways. Good luck in the future with these dogs as they transition from being experiments to being loved, FREE companions. As far as I am conerned, you are doing God’s work!

  5. Lisa Says:

    Matt – you and Kerry are incredible!! I was at PetsAliv for the event and now calling this a life altering event. Your blog and pictures have me in tears all over again – I luv you all for rescuing these awesome beagles….and for ALL the work and dedication you do!!! I have one Pets Alive Beagle already…and you just never know about my future :-) keep up the awesome work – you are the Angel of animals for sure!!

  6. SusanMcCauley Says:

    So heartwarming…THANK YOU, ALL for this wonderful saving of precious lives.

  7. Michele&Rob Says:

    What a heart-warming story. The video brought tears to our eyes! Pets Alive is the best! We already have 3 dogs (1 from Pets Alive), so we can’t adopt a beagle, but our donation is on its way! Good luck!

  8. juliet lauricella Says:

    Yes indeed, tears come to the eye… Thank you Matt for your womderful comments and for all that the 3 organizations did to rescue those poor dogs. We adopted a beagle June 21st from Pets Alive. He is the sweetest tempered, loving creature, and marvelous with our cats as well. Bagele (formerly Chance)is truly magnificent. He is the fourth dog we have owned and the first rescue. Our vet checked him over today and everyone in her office commented on the beautiful condition he was in. You had him for a mere 9 days before he was adopted by us. About the only thing we weren’t prepared for was his car-sickness, which if you consider he was brought up from S.C. is not surprising. We are working on that… also, and you may find this with your other beagle rescues, he doesn’t know what to do with a ball. May all your little rescues come to learn the fun of playing with a toy…and the joy of being loved.

    While we can’t donate at this time, we are spreading the word about Pets Alive. I emailed our vet tonight about the beagle rescue. We are awaiting some P.A. business cards to distribute among people we know.

  9. Sherri Says:

    Thank you for saving these wonderful beagles! It breaks my heart to think of what their lives have been like until now, but I’m full of hope for their futures, thanks to you, Win, and Best Friends. A donation to help with their care is on the way, in honour of my sweet rescue beagle.

    Thank you for caring.

  10. richie martin Says:

    thank you from the bottem of my heart!! looking into those eyes without a voice and helping in everyway you can petsalive with bestfriends and war -nyc!! happy 4th of july to all!! especially to the beagles heading to a new life!!

  11. Polly Gordon Says:

    Thank you for rescuing the Beagles. Will you be publishing a list of the beagles as they are named through donations?

  12. Katie Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving these beautiful dogs! Happy Independence Day!

  13. Brittany and Mike Says:

    This is an incredible and touching story! We are so taken with your organization’s generous efforts to save these beautiful beagles. Thank you for all that you do!

  14. wendy Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Tragedy turns into triumph! What a beautiful written piece, I could feel your pain and your pride, through my tears and the difficulty swallowing due to the lump in it. I sent my donation to name one of these little angels. God bless you and everyone at Pets Alive. Happy 4th of July!!!

  15. Karen R Says:

    I have tears running down my cheeks as I write this – what a wonderful ending to a story that could have had a horrible ending. I adopted my beagle at 12 and he is still the most loving sweetest companion 6 years later (yes he is 18!). They are truly God’s creatures and need to be treated as such.

    Thanks for all that you do!

  16. 120 beagles rescatados de un laboratorio en New Jersey » » www.doogweb.es Says:

    […] Pets Alive. Blog de la liberación de los beagles en este enlace. Vídeo del rescate: ¿Has visto estos artículos…?Collar y arnés Halti, una gran idea… […]

  17. Teresa Briggs Says:

    I too have cried tears of joy for this wonderful story. You all are angels and I’m so happy for these precious Beagles. Thank you Matt for the wonderful post and selfless work you and your organization do for animals in need. Thanks again for this truly inspirational post

  18. Melanie H. Says:

    I am truly in tears from reading your blog and seeing all the beautiful beagle faces! We do alot of rescue and have rescued many beagles.. Beagles have such sweet souls and endearing personalities! This truly is the greatest 4th of July and bless all of you who helped with one of the greatest rescues I have encounter! Please give each and everyone one of them an extra hug and kiss from me…….
    God Bless you all!

  19. Roz Says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will be naming a dog with my donation, so that they will never again be known by only a number.

  20. Gabrielle Says:

    Thank you to Pets Alive, Best Friends, and W.A.R. for giving these animals a second chance at life. I adopted a cat from a shelter almost three years ago, and she has horrible nightmares, still. I have no idea what her life was like before she was rescued and given a chance at the shelter, but I sometimes worry she was abused. She is well loved now, and I hope these beagles will be loved too. It’s all any of us really deserve, freedom, liberty and LOVE.

  21. Christine Says:

    You guys are awesome!! I wish we lived closer, we would have been there to help. Our donation is on the way! We are priviledged to live with four adopted beagles, they make us laugh every day :o) Great work!!!!! and I pray that each one gets their forever home.

  22. Lori Says:

    Thank you for all the work you have done to save these Beagles. I like many others wished I lived closer to have been on hand to help in anyway I could. But instead I donated and gave my rescued Beagle an extra hug tonight. Your group along with Best Friends and W.A.R are truly angels who resuce those without a voice. Thank you!

  23. Kathy Says:

    What a blessing all of you are to each animal rescued in this large effort!!!!!!!!!!! Words cannot say enough to how I feel about this task you took on. If I lived closer I would have been there in a heartbeat to help in any way I could. It sickens me to know there are such places like this one that went under! I was not aware of such inhumane places. sick!!! I was so glad to hear of the success you had in this huge rescue and I do hope there will be many loving people come forward to provide the “forever home” to these loving animals!

    Keep up the good work!

  24. Judy Humenanski Says:

    God bless all of the rescuers and volunteers throughout our great nation who give their all for every single animal they rescue. When a rescuer steps in, these animals are nameless no more and loved forever more! You are all truly Angels among us!
    Thank You!

  25. Laura Deaton Says:

    You are Angels! Thanks for all your efforts and compassion!

  26. Ellen G Says:

    Hi guys – great work!!! What a wonderful new beginning for these dogs. I am glad they are in great shape, but don’t forget that they’ve never been exposed to the outside and other dogs and people, and they need to get inoculated asap. My donation is online.

  27. Adele Fishman Says:

    It’s impossible to come to terms with the mindless cruelty of using these beautiful creatures as “lab objects”! Bank of America should experience shame and embarrassment AND exposure to the media for their incredible selfishness. Thank God for the goodness of these beagles’ rescuers. The very fact that the Beagle breed is so “ideal” for lab experiments because of their gentle, accepting temperment – is so ironically dreadful!!!! What a day of Liberation for these beauties!

  28. Molly Quinn Says:

    Thank all of you for everything you do for the animals. I had tears as well as I read this blog. You do so much for all animals in need. You have saved many dogs from Shelby County Kentucky I know because I set up the transports and you love every one of them…your outpouring of love and dedication shines brightly with the beagles. Keep the updates coming!

  29. Joe D Says:

    Thank you for saving these poor dogs.

    We received our approval email this week. We will be picking up our new beagle tomorrow. He/she will be joining our other beagles, Linus, Schroeder and Belle.

    Beagles Rule!!

  30. Brie Says:

    Matt, when you decide you’re ready to publish a book, perhaps with photos from Becky and Molly, please let us know. Reading what you write always leaves a stark impression. Enthusiasm, anger, tears, joy, outrage. I know the sanctuary is what you “do” but I also genuinely believe your writing is part of your calling.

    I’m ready to quit my job, move north and scoop poop.

  31. Kellee Says:

    Beautiful words, beautiful story. Thanks so much for saving these lovely Beagles and sharing the story with us!

  32. tess Says:

    what has become of the monkeys. i hope they were rescued too..

  33. Admnistrator Says:

    We would never leave the monkeys -uh- hanging. They are at In Defense of Animals (http://idausa.org). Matt

  34. Patti R. Says:

    There is a special place in heaven reserved for all of you at this wonderful sanctuary. Thank you for rescuing these beautiful beagles. I’m coming over on Saturday to volunteer and help them find their forever homes – I can’t wait to meet them!! I hope to be able to meet Lucy, the beagle I named. God bless each and every one of you.

  35. DIXIE WHEELDON Says:

    I HAVE 2 BEAGLES[RESCUES] MOLLY AND BUDDY WHO HAVE THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, AND I SO HOPE THESE BEAGLES WILL NOW HAVE THE SAME. I WISH I COULD TAKE THEM ALL OR LIVE CLOSER WHERE I COULD VOLUNTEER. I WISH THE “LAB” PEOPLE WOULD BE CAUGHT AND PUNISHED SEVERELY.VERY SEVERELY.THANK HEAVENS FOR BEST FRIENDS AND PETS ALIVE WHO REALLY CARE.HOW PEOPLE CAN BE SO CRUEL IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE IS BEYOND ME.I HOPE ALL THESE BABIES FIND A RREALLY GOOD HOME.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

  36. Susan Says:

    Fabulous story about such gentle pups. I am a beagle owner and my sweet Belle is such a joy…I cannot fathom using beagles and exploiting their gentle nature as a convenient “specimen” for experimentation.
    Yahoo for Pets Alive.
    I also rescued a beagle mix from Hurricane Katrine (Benny). He vomited for weeks after his excursion from a natural disaster…it took those weeks to assure him of his presence in our family. This awesome rescue has been an inspiration to our family.
    We hope to enjoy one of these Beagles and give it the love and affection it deserves. I hope to hear from Kerri soon.

  37. Mark Anderson Says:

    Hello,

    I came across the video of your beagle rescue on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. He is a writer for The Atlantic magazine. I had to put down both of my beagles this year. Justin, 11 years old, went to doggie heaven in February because of cancer and Daley, 12 years old, joined him in June. I am still adjusting to not having two of my best friends with me. I live in Cincinnati, so I don’t have the means to come adopt a beagle from this rescue, however I just donated 50.00 to your cause so two of these beagles, who have been given new life, can carry on the memory of my two boys by taking their names. Thank you for doing what you did. It has warmed my heart during a time I needed it most.

    Sincerely,

    Mark Anderson
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  38. Nora Plank Says:

    I watched the video through happy tears, and am so inspired by your work and the work of all the rescue volunteers. What a beautiful story, and yes, a tribute to those volunteers who live in this great country!

  39. Gail Says:

    What a heartwarming story. I live in MI and adopted a rescue Beagle. She is wonderful. Thank you for rescuing these angels with fur.

  40. Cristina Fonseca Says:

    Dear Matt & Kerry and all voluteers,
    Thanks to all of you for save the life of these lab Beagles.I am from Brazil and I have 8 Beagles,three of them were adopted,I live in my farm.I love these little hounds and I know what they suffer inside those devil labs.Whem I read the email talking about this rescue I started to cry,I was so happy,I made a donation and also named one of the Beagles,”Brazil” is the name.Let me know if will be necessary more forever homes for some of them,for me it will be wonderful to bring one or two of these Beagles to my house in Brazil,it´s only 10 hrs flying! Be sure that all of you are heroes!Once again….Thak you very and very much!
    All the best,
    Cristina…..from Brazil.

  41. Karen Titus Says:

    God Bless you all for your love, energy and passion for these little ones, God’s creatures/creations. How lucky am I to have found this story? My heart is full and my tears are plenty. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our four legged friends. I will send my donation also to name a pup in memory of my CoCo who left this world 5 years ago today.
    God’s Blessings to all of you.
    Karen Titus
    Farmingdale, NJ
    and Bailey, Tobey, Jack, Sam and Pavel (the Furbaby Posse)

  42. Benla Says:

    Nice work. You really do make a difference

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