Over 600 dogs and cats rehomed from closed testing lab in Mayo

John McGhee said it was a “no brainer” to adopt a beagle when he heard about the pilot project

Carol, a beagle adopted by John McGhee, one of 600 animals rehomed when a animal testing centre closed in Co Mayo

Carol, a beagle adopted by John McGhee, one of 600 animals rehomed when a animal testing centre closed in Co Mayo

 

In late 2016, John McGhee opened a link to a news story a friend sent him, about an effort to try and rehome nearly 350 dogs, mostly beagles, from a research facility that was closing down in Co Mayo.

Fast forward a few weeks and John, who lives in Co Offaly, was driving to the former testing centre to put his name down to adopt one of the dogs.

“I love beagles, and a beagle needed a home so it was a no brainer,” he said.

John already owned one dog Ben, who was half beagle half labrador, and adopted ‘Carol’ from the centre in January 2017.

The major rehoming project was undertaken by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).

In total, 346 dogs and 257 cats were rehomed from the facility over the course of more than a year. Medical testing carried out on the animals include trialling veterinary medicines such as worm and flea treatments. The research facility was run by a large American firm, Charles River Laboratories, which develops and test pharmaceutical products.

John McGhee said initially Carol had problems adapting for the first four weeks or so, due to her upbringing in the clinical environment. He explained she had problems bedding down to sleep.

“One night I came down to find her standing upright in the dark in the middle of the kitchen,” he said.

Now Carol, who will be three years old this June, is thoroughly spoiled, sleeps on the bed, and gets on perfectly. John said when he first saw her she was the “shyest and smallest,” but now would probably be the boldest dog out of the batch she was rehomed from, he said.

Pilot

In August 2016 the pharmaceutical firm met with representatives from the ISPCA to discuss rehoming as many of the animals at the research facility as possible. The pilot project was the first of its kind in Ireland.

Staff responsible for animal care at the facility were kept on while the major rehoming project was carried out. Many of the dogs had to be trained and socialised before they could be rehomed, including learning how to walk on a leash.

In order to familiarise the animals with a domestic home setting a mock-up living room was set up at the facility, including a sofa, television and washing machine. An outdoor exercise play area was also set up at the closed facility, and all of the animals were seen by veterinary surgeons before they were listed for adoption.

Eva Ellis, a manager at the ISPCA working on the project, said the “sheer volume” of animals to be rehomed “naturally put a strain on our resources and it was challenging at times”.

“It was heart-warming to watch the animals witness sunshine, walk on the grass and to even see snow and rain for the first time,” she said.

She added that “many staff members working at the closed research facility adopted some of the animals themselves”.

Dogs Trust Ireland and Belfast-based group Cats Protection also assisted in rehoming the animals from the facility.