With their floppy ears, wrinkly faces, and sturdy, bouncy little frames, beagles are one of the true joys of the dog world. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a beagle without feeling happier afterward. That’s why I’m always so shocked to see so many beagles in shelters.
Why are there so many Beagles in shelters?
Despite their charm, many Beagles end up in shelters due to unprepared owners who underestimate their high energy, loud baying, and strong prey drive. Their intense food motivation can lead to obesity if not managed. Overbreeding and backyard breeding contribute to the problem, as does their use in laboratory research.
Also, their separation anxiety can lead to destructive behavior, causing owners to surrender them, especially when they’re kept as only pets.
Beagles are unique among dogs that you’ll see in shelters. There are tons of pit bulls in shelters and a surprising number of rescued huskies and German Shepherds in shelters, too, but why on earth is this small, adorable, affectionate breed ending up in American shelters? There are some reasons that beagles are in shelters, and there are some direct things you can do to help them.
Why People Like Beagles So Much
People Like Beagles
People love Beagles for their friendliness, adaptability, and loyalty. Their compact, sturdy build suits any home. They’re generally healthy, long-lived, and trainable. They have an exceptional sense of smell, and their compatibility with other pets and children makes them a delightful, versatile addition to any family.
Beagles are easy to love. They’re kind of like potato chips: you can’t, and maybe shouldn’t, stop with just one.
Beagles are one of the friendliest dogs out there. They get along with the whole family, all your friends, and the mailman too. They love other dogs, typically of any size, and they even get along well with cats most of the time.
This is also a very loyal dog who will warn you of any intruders with that characteristic Beagle Bay. They are alert and watchful of the house and family, despite their non-aggressive nature.
Go Along Get Along Dogs
Beagles are small enough to do well in any size home, but they have a sturdy, toss-around frame that makes them do well even with small children. Despite their small size, beagles have no trouble keeping up with even the most active family. This tends to be a healthy and long-lived breed free of most genetic conditions and not prone to most common health problems.
They are extremely adaptable, good-natured, and quick learners, especially where food is involved. They are typically extremely food motivated and able to focus for long periods in order to achieve their reward. While the beagle’s stubborn streak is well known, when properly motivated, this dog is very easy to train.
One of the things that many beagle owners love best about their breed is that extraordinary nose. Beagles are tied with German Shepherds for the third-best noses of all dogs behind the Bassett Hound and the Bloodhound. In fact, they can smell “one to ten million times more acutely than a human.”
Hunters Like Beagles
Hunters like Beagles because of their exceptional sense of smell and compact size that allows them to effectively navigate dense undergrowth. They are tenacious and have a lot of stamina, allowing them to track sents for long distances, and their distinctive baying alerts hunters to their location.
The beagle was originally bred to be a hunting hound and is frequently used for that purpose still today. Beagles traditionally hunt in packs (although they can hunt alone), baying as they go to let the hunter know their location and to coordinate their movements with the rest of the pack.
Beagles are great hunters and because they live so well together, it can be very easy for hunters to keep large packs together.
Researchers Like Beagles
Researchers favor Beagles due to their small-to-medium size, non-aggressive nature, and adaptability, which make them easy to house, handle, and group in laboratory settings. Their general health minimizes experiment complications. The breed’s standardization ensures consistency, making them reliable subjects.
These traits, unfortunately, make Beagles a common choice for laboratory experiments.
The small to medium size makes them easy to house and care for. Beagles are one of the least aggressive breeds, making them easier to handle in a research or laboratory environment.
The highly social and adaptable nature of beagles enables them to live in groups in laboratory settings without fights breaking out or problems occurring. Because these dogs are generally healthy, there are fewer complications with research experiments than with other breeds.
For all of these reasons, beagles have been used in laboratory experiments for a long time. Therefore, there are massive breeding institutions that have been developed to breed beagles to a highly predictable breed standardization that makes them consistent enough to serve as good subjects in experiments, with little variety between individuals.
Reasons Why So Many Beagles End Up In Shelters
Discarded Lab Beagles
So many Beagles are in shelters because of the twofold problem of laboratory testing on these dogs. Irresponsible breeding programs that supply labs with dogs are often shut down or have overflow dogs, and some dogs are sent to shelters when the experiment is over (though most are euthanized).
First, breeding programs that supply Beagles to laboratories are frequently overcrowded and poorly managed. The Humane Society of the United States famously removed nearly 4,000 beagles from a mass breeding facility in Virginia that had received multiple Animal Welfare Act violations for withholding food and failing to provide veterinary care.
Incidentally, that facility has shut down and all those Beagles have found new homes. But it took a massive effort. And these dogs end up in shelters all across America. For example about 200 of those 4,000 Beagles were shipped from Virginia to California to help spread out the rescues.
Laboratories Stop Needing Test Subjects
Second, many of these laboratories offer these dogs up for adoption when the experiments are done. While most laboratory beagles are euthanized when the experiment is over, 15 states in the US require laboratories to offer their dogs for adoption when the experiment is over.
Beagles are exceptionally adaptable and multiple studies in the U.S. and abroad have proven that Beagles are still exceptional pets even after being rescued from deplorable breeding facilities or a life of experimentation. In fact, one study suggests that these dogs are even better than Beagles purchased from commercial breeders.
Regardless, it’s easy to point the finger at large animal testing laboratories like Charles River Laboratories, Labcorp Early Development Laboratories, and Zoetis LLC as well as mass breeders like Marshall Farms Group, Envigo RMS, and Ridglan Farms to answer the question “why are there so many Beagles in shelters?”
(Links to their Contact Pages are provided in case you want to ask them about their practices directly. You can also sign the Human Society of the United States’ petition to end experiments on dogs).
Beagles are overwhelmingly cute, especially as puppies, and they’re also readily available from many different sources. It can be very easy to impulsively buy such a charming puppy. However, beagles aren’t always easy to live with.
Owners frequently surrender beagles when they come to the realization that the breed isn’t a good match for them. They might also undergo changes in their living situations and recognize that they shouldn’t have chosen a dog so energetic or noisy. Therefore, surrender their dogs when they relocate or take up a new job, among other reasons.
Beagles have a lot of energy. They were bred to run fast for long periods chasing fast, agile prey, and most still have that drive in them.
When owners fail to meet the exercise needs of their Beagles, behavior problems inevitably crop up. Destructiveness, excessive vocalizing, aggression, escaping, and a whole host of other issues are likely to emerge in a bored Beagle with pent-up energy.
Owners, surprised to find themselves with a 20-pound handful, often opt to surrender their Beagles rather than commit to curbing bad behaviors and giving them the exercise they need. These dogs have a puppy-like energy throughout life.
Too Much Hound Dog
Like all hounds, Beagles have an extremely high prey drive that typically can’t be trained out, even with dedicated efforts. Off-leash, these dogs will almost certainly chase a squirrel or rabbit if they see one. For the same reason, they often don’t do well with small pets like rabbits and birds or farm animals like chickens and ducks.
Beagles don’t have to see prey to give in to prey drive, either. That powerful nose can get them into a lot of trouble. It’s common for beagles to dig or even chew their way out of a yard if there’s an enticing smell on the other side of the fence.
When beagles do give in to their prey drive, they do it loudly. All hound dogs make a variety of extraordinary sounds, but I have never been as stunned by the noise coming out of a dog as by beagles. It’s astounding that such a small dog can make such a big noise.
The beagles I know often bay when they’re excited, scared, or sometimes for no particular reason at all that I can tell. This can make beagles very unpopular with the neighbors and lead to an owner having to surrender their dog.
Most beagles are food motivated, so training can be easy. However, if they have a full tummy or want to chase or smell something your training is likely to fail. Positive reinforcement can make the beagle a very pleasant dog to live with, but it needs to be consistent, and some owners aren’t ready for that kind of commitment.
Beagles Love Love
Beagles are deeply loving dogs who love social interaction. They do particularly well with people and dogs, and many of them experience separation anxiety when apart from their people, especially if they’re a single pet.
Beagles tend to express their anxiety loudly and destructively, which can lead their owners to surrender them.
Overbreeding and Backyard Breeding
Beagles live well in packs and hunters keep them in groups. This makes it easy to breed them, and also easy for breeding mistakes to happen.
Some people who keep packs of beagles just don’t fix them, resulting in an endless stream of puppies. When breeders or hunters opt to dispose of surplus dogs, they frequently give up older dogs that have spent their entire lives outdoors. This means they are unlikely to be potty trained and may be very difficult to train to live in the house.
Backyard breeders find it easy to turn a profit on the intensely adorable and well-known beagle. Since the breed is not particularly prone to genetic conditions, they can get away with a lot of irresponsible breeding before it shows in the puppies. However, eventually, these problems do crop up. The owners then surrender the puppies.
Irresponsible breeders are also not very worried about where puppies end up. They knowingly sell dogs to families not well suited to the breed or are dishonest in explaining how these dogs tend to behave.
Health Concerns Worsened by Poor Breeding
While beagles are typically a healthy breed, they are prone to some health issues such as epilepsy, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and some eye and skin conditions, especially if they are a particularly wrinkly beagle.
Irresponsibly bred beagles are more likely to have these problems. Irresponsible owners often buy these dogs looking for a cheap pet and are unlikely to pay for medical treatment. When these dogs get sick, they abandon them.
These owners are likely not to balance their diet and exercise sufficiently. Beagles love to eat and are intensely motivated by food. That makes it easy for them to become overweight, which leads to even more health problems.
How You Can Help Beagles
Helping sheltered Beagles is manageable. They adjust well to new homes, making fostering a beneficial option. It reduces shelter overcrowding and prevents the development of issues from isolation.
Even spending time with them at shelters can improve their social skills, making them more adoptable. Offer support to struggling Beagle owners through donations or assistance. Encourage potential Beagle owners to understand the breed’s characteristics.
Advocate for responsible breeding and treatment of laboratory animals. Remember, most sheltered Beagles are ready to offer immense love and affection. Advocate, donate, volunteer, and consider fostering or adopting.