‘Blood On Your Hands’: Police Return Rescued Puppies To Animal Testing Facility

Despite thousands calling for their release, police have returned two puppies to the breeding facility they were rescued from

By & Jemima Webber

A young beagle dog rescued from an MBR Acres breeding facility Beagles are widely used for animal testing, in part due to their docile nature - Media Credit: Animal Rebellion

In the early hours of Tuesday, December 20, activists broke into the MBR Acres animal testing breeding facility in Cambridgeshire in the UK. There, they freed 18 beagle puppies, but police seized two others, named Love and Libby.

Rescuers, along with thousands of members of the public, campaigned for their release. However, days later, Cambridgeshire police department confirmed that it had returned both dogs to the MBR breeding facility.

“We recognize the strong feelings this issue has raised in many people, however, we had no legal justification to retain the dogs and therefore were compelled to return them,” Cambridgeshire Constabulary wrote on Facebook, adding that it did so for the puppies’ “wellbeing.”

“Fourteen people were arrested, interviewed in connection with burglary and aggravated trespass offences, and released on conditional bail until next year,” the department added.

More than 1,000 people flocked to the comment section to let their disappointment at the news be known. Many accused the police and breeding facility of having “blood on their hands.”

Animal Rebellion, the group behind the rescue operation, was similarly “outraged” by the decision. “Evidence supplied to the police showed inadequate bedding facilities, dogs left to sit in their own excrement and urine, and nothing for dogs to use for play,” the organization wrote online.

Now, Love and Libby “will face either euthanasia for being ‘contaminated property’, or endure a lifetime of suffering in animal experiments,” it added.

Animal Rebellion had organized protests outside of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary HQ, and sponsored a petition that called for the two dogs to be released. At the time of writing, it had gathered near to 35,000 signatures.

Two empty dog beds for beagle puppies Libby and Love who were almost rescued
Animal Rebellion A sanctuary was ready to take in Libby and Love, but the pair were handed back to MBR Acres

UK’s largest open rescue

Animal Rebellion claims this is the biggest open rescue to ever happen in the UK. Activists potentially face up to 10 years in prison for their actions. 

“We rescued as many dogs as we could so they can live a long happy life with loving families,” Dan Kidby, co-founder of Animal Rebellion, told Plant Based News (PBN). “The rescuers then handed themselves in to face a trial by jury to give the general public the opportunity to find us not guilty and deal a devastating blow to the animal testing industry.”

  • Beagles at an MBR animal testing facility before being rescued
  • Animal Rebellion activists rescuing beagles from an animal testing facility
  • Animal Rebellion activist rescuing beagles from an MBR Acres testing facility in the UK

MBR Acres controversy

MBR Acres is owned by Marshall BioResources, which describes itself as a “global provider of purpose-bred animals for biomedical research and related services.” It has historically bred ferrets, piglets, and kittens, as well as dogs, for experiments.

At its Cambridgeshire site alone, MBR Acres breeds around 2,000 beagles a year, selling them on for testing both in the UK and abroad.

Before being sold, puppies are kept in “horrific” conditions for around 16 weeks, Animal Rebellion says. Its investigators found dogs in cages playing in their own excrement and desperately trying to interact with rescuers. 

During the action, the animal rights group wore t-shirts that said “Put Animal Testing On Trial” and “What Would You Do If This Was Your Dog?”. 

It’s certainly not the first time MBR Acres has been under the spotlight. Celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Peter Egan have spoken out about the facility’s treatment of animals (and animal experiments in general). Last year, musician Will Young handcuffed himself to the gates of MBR Acres to raise awareness of the issue.

Dog testing in the UK

The UK reports conducting more animal tests than any other country in Europe, but much of the public is unaware of the extent of the matter.

In 2021, 4,277 regulated tests were carried out on dogs in the UK. Of those, 4,016 were beagles. All of these experiments were approved by the UK government.

  • Beagle dogs in metal cages at MBR Acres' breeding site in Cambridgeshire, UK
  • A young beagle dog rescued from an MBR Acres breeding facility

Beagles are used for tests because they are small and docile, meaning they are relatively easy to exploit. 

Dogs are often used for toxicity testing, which sees them force-fed or injected with chemicals. If they don’t die from the poison, they may be killed by asphyxiation so that researchers can conduct autopsies. 

Do animal tests work?

Animal testing has been repeatedly shown to be unreliable, as well as cruel. 

Around three million tests are carried out on live animals each year in the UK. This is despite the fact that animal-tested drugs have an approximately 90 percent failure rate in human trials.

Cruelty Free International, which campaigns against animal testing globally, says there are a number of viable alternatives available. These include the use of cell cultures, human tissue, and computer models.

“Animal Rebellion is calling for the end to animal testing,” Kidby told PBN. “So we as a society can live up to our values as a nation of animal lovers.”

Those interested can sign a petition to shut down MBR Acres here, or donate to Animal Rebellion’s rescue efforts here.

This article was first published on December 20, 2022. It was updated on December 30 to include new information on Love and Libby’s return to MBR Acres.

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