They've started to head to shelters across the United States, but it'll take some time before they go up for adoption.
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several beagles outdoors
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The Humane Society of the United States announced earlier this month that it's undertaking a massive rescue operation: saving about 4,000 beagles from a Virginia breeding facility. 

Because there are thousands of dogs, the "historic effort" will take weeks for the Humane Society to complete. A federal judge ordered the dogs' release earlier this month, giving federal authorities 60 days to find the beagles a new place to stay, according to NPR.

A pharmaceutical and biotechnology company called Envigo owns the breeding facility in Cumberland, Va. The Humane Society's Animal Rescue Team began removing the dogs after federal inspectors found numerous animal welfare violations at the facility.

The Human Society unloaded its first beagle transport, more than 400 dogs, from the Envigo facility on Thursday.

Eventually, the dogs will arrive at shelters and rescues across the country before they can be adopted. Here's what else you should know: 

What Happened to the Beagles?

Several inspections—from last July to March—from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed 73 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Specifically, inspectors said they found:

  • some dogs were euthanized without anesthesia
  • dogs were held in shelters that were too hot for too long 
  • unclean, dangerous living conditions
  • food being withheld
  • moldy and maggot-infested food
  • dogs hurting or killing other dogs

In March, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats representing Virginia, wrote to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, asking it to shut down the facility and "pursue aggressive enforcement actions."  

The federal government sued Envigo in May. A federal judge later granted a restraining order, ordering Envigo "to put a halt to such violations pending further proceedings" while instructing the company to take better care of the remaining dogs. 

On July 7, the Humane Society announced it would work with the U.S. Justice Department to remove the 4,000 beagles after the court, Envigo, the Humane Society, and the Justice Department approved a transfer plan. 

Envigo announced Monday that it had entered a settlement with the government that "is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Envigo with regard to its past operation of the Cumberland Facility." Inotiv, Engivo's parent company, said last month that it will shutter the breeding facility.   

Where Are the Beagles Going? 

The Humane Society knows it faces quite a challenge: finding shelters who can take 4,000 beagles during a summer when many shelters are already overcrowded. However, it's already partnered with eight shelters and rescues that are taking the dogs: 

That list will likely grow as the weeks go by, the Human Society writes. While several of its partners are located in the western U.S., most of the dogs will likely end up with East Coast and Midwest shelters. 

Of the first 432 beagles rescued Thursday, 201 of them will remain with the Humane Society for treatment before they move to another shelter, the society said. Shelter partners Homeward Trails, Priceless Pets, Helen Woodward Animal Center, and Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary each took in some beagles as well.

Each of the beagles has a tattoo on their inner ears, showing their identification code. Homeward Trails, which took in about 500 beagles from Envigo through an agreement earlier this year, welcomed 21 more dogs Thursday.

"This is one of the largest dog rescue efforts ever coordinated and has truly been a group effort. To know that these dogs will get to have the lives they deserve and not languish in cages for the rest of their lives is just so rewarding," Sue Bell, executive director of Homeward Trails, said in a statement

If you work for a shelter or rescue and would like to take in some of the beagles, the Humane Society recommends becoming one of its partners. It can't guarantee that you'll be picked, but you can fill out an application.   

Can I Adopt 1 of the Beagles?

Maybe! Eventually, the dogs who are ready will go up for adoption. But it will take a long time for some of them. 

Speaking with NPR, both Bell and John Ramer, the executive director of the Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary, said the dogs will need medical treatment—spaying, neutering, and longer-term treatments—as well as socialization.

That means the younger beagles could be ready for adoption earlier than the older ones, who've only known life in the breeding facility. 

Another thing to keep in mind: Each shelter or rescue has its own adoption applications, so you'll want to contact them directly when the dogs are available for adoption. Of course, you could also help by donating, volunteering, or even adopting another dog from their shelters.

These beagles need help, but plenty of other dogs do, too.