Beagles are the dog breed most often used in animal beagle testing, due to their size and passive nature. In the United States, as many as 65,000 beagles are used every year for medical, cosmetic, beauty, and other chemical tests. They are purpose-bred and live their lives in cages undergoing experiments. The Rescue + Freedom Project (formerly Beagle Freedom Project) has successfully advocated for beagles to be released from labs. This organization has freed hundreds of animals.
Beagles are also used in a range of research procedures: fundamental biological research, applied human medicine, applied for veterinary medicine, and protection of man, animals, or the environment. Of the 8,018 dogs used in testing in the UK in 2004, 7,799 were beagles (97.3%). In the UK, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 gave special status to primates, equids, cats, and dogs and in 2005 the Animal Procedures Committee (set up by the act) ruled that testing on mice was preferable, even though a greater number of individual animals were involved.
In 2005 beagles were involved in less than 0.3% of the total experiments on animals in the UK, but of the 7670 experiments performed on dogs 7406 involved beagles (96.6%). Most dogs are bred specifically for this purpose, by companies such as Harlan. In the UK companies breeding animals for research must be licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act.
Beagle Testing of cosmetic products on animals is banned in the member states of the European Community, although France protested the ban and has made efforts to have it lifted. It is permitted in the United States but is not mandatory if safety can be ascertained by other methods, and the test species is not specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When testing the toxicity of food additives, food contaminants, and some drugs and chemicals the FDA uses beagles and miniature pigs as surrogates for direct human testing. Minnesota was the first state to enact a Beagle Freedom adoption law in 2014, mandating that dogs and cats are allowed to be adopted once they have completed research testing.
Anti-vivisection groups have reported on the abuse of animals inside testing facilities. In 1997 footage secretly filmed by a freelance journalist inside Huntingdon Life Sciences in the UK showed staff punching and screaming at beagles. Consort Kennels, a UK-based breeder of beagles for testing, closed down in 1997 after pressure from animal rights groups.