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Dog takes "first ever steps of freedom" after 9 years in laboratory cage

This beagle has found freedom in a forever home after spending his entire life in a laboratory, where he was subjected to years of testing.

Sidney, 9, is believed to have been born in a testing lab where he spent every day of his life, until he was rescued by the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) in September.

Shannon Keith, the president and founder of BFP, told Newsweek that Sidney was used for toxicity testing, so he spent “his entire life confined in captivity.”

The Humane Society estimates that over 50 million animals are used for experiments in the U.S. every year, including dogs, cats, hamsters, pigs, rabbits, and sheep. Dogs are usually required for testing on their heart, lungs, or kidneys, so the laboratories can observe how a substance might impact human organ function.

Keith said: “Sidney was taken from his mother at a very early age, and he had none of the things puppies should have: no toys, nothing to teethe on, nothing to snuggle with, no normal socialization with mother or littermates. At about 10 weeks of age, the testing started.

“Sidney was used for toxicity testing, which means that doses of drugs were induced to see what level of toxins would make him sick and react in certain ways. Sidney’s interactions with people were mostly limited to testing, feeding, and cleaning. He had no enrichment in his life, meaning no stimulation and nothing to do. This is the life of a laboratory test animal.”

During his nine years in the laboratory, Sidney had no quality of life as he spent most of his time in a small crate. As a result, he’s been left with serious trauma from his past, and understandably, he struggles to trust people.

After removing him from the facility, the BFP placed Sidney with a foster home who offered him the love and care he deserved. They captured the moment when he took “his first ever steps of freedom” into his new home.

“Other than dental and some minor other physical issues, Sidney struggled the most with the trauma,” Keith continued. “Nine years in a laboratory causes severe PTSD. He had to learn to trust people, to overcome fears of certain noises, and to learn to just be and that everything was going to be ok.

“We call it the beagle breakthrough when they finally look into your eyes rather than through them. For some, it may only take a few days, for others, months, or years. For Sidney, it took a while, but he finally had his breakthrough, and when he looked into his foster mother’s eyes, she knew he was home, and he knew he was safe.”

Sidney’s fosterer immediately fell in love with the beagle and decided to keep him as a permanent adoption. Sidney even has a beagle brother in his new home, who is teaching him how to be a regular dog.

Keith noted that this can often happen because “the bond becomes so close when helping a dog overcome trauma,” and the dog becomes the newest member of the family.

The video of Sidney stepping out of his crate and walking into his new home was shared to TikTok (@beaglefreedom) on September 15, and it instantly went viral. The clip has been viewed more than 143,000 times and received over 13,000 likes from supportive social media users.

When discussing the reaction to the video, Keith told Newsweek that it was mostly “sadness and empathy for Sidney,” with many people expressing their anger towards the practice of animal testing.

“We hope that by sharing Sidney’s first steps of freedom, as well as those of many other survivors, we will spread awareness about the survivors of animal testing and all that they have gone through, so that better science will prevail without the use of animals,” Keith said.

With over 600 comments on the TikTok post, many people praised Sidney’s strength and will power, and thanked the BFP for saving him.

One person commented: “Can you imagine how much courage it takes to take those steps, after everything he’s been through?”

Another person wrote: “How can people be so cruel? They should never be used for testing. I am so happy for Sidney.”

While another responded: “Thank you for giving this precious baby his well-deserved freedom!”

Do you have any amazing pet rescue stories you want to share? Send them to life@newsweek.com with some details about your best friend and they could appear in our Pet of the Week lineup.

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