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Beagle Freedom Project rescues 10 dogs from Midwest research lab

Photo gallery: Rescued beagles arrive at Valley Village-based Beagle Freedom Project

VALLEY VILLAGE - Marvin shook but stood still as dozens of eyes stared at him, quietly watching for his reaction as he took his first whiff of Los Angeles air.

The beagle had his tail between his legs, but after less than five minutes that tail began to wag and for the first time, Marvin galloped through a yard to play with nine other dogs who were similarly enjoying their first moments outside of a cage.

On Wednesday, 10 beagles arrived by van in Valley Village after a 1,500 mile trip following their rescue from a research laboratory in the Midwest.

"They've lived their whole lives inside a laboratory that stinks of ammonia," said Shannon Keith, founder and president of the Valley Village-based Beagle Freedom Project. "They don't know how to be a dog but here they'll see toys for the first time; they'll get treats for the first time; they'll get love for the first time."

The dogs traveled over four days after a less than two-week negotiation process between a laboratory and Beagle Freedom Project, a nonprofit organization and project of Animal Rescue, Media & Education.

As part of the deal to rescue the animals, Keith said she cannot disclose the name or location of the laboratory, but she said the dogs had experienced years of oral gavage - where tubes are put down their throats to administer liquids into their lower esophagus or stomach - and have undergone numerous experiments.

Research beagles are usually obtained directly from commercial breeders who specifically breed dogs to sell to scientific institutions, according to Beagle Freedom Project.

"Labs typically use beagles for toxicity testing, pumping toxins into their systems to test products for human use," she said, adding that products include everything from laundry detergent to makeup and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. "Some of them have seizures, some of them have heart attacks and many of them die. These are the lucky ones."

The beagles, ranging in age from 4 to 10 years, were carefully carried out of a transport van by volunteers Wednesday, arriving at Beagle Freedom Project's headquarters - and Keith's home - welcomed by more than a dozen of cameras and smiling faces of potential owners.

Beagle Freedom Project has made 11 rescue trips, involving 106 beagles since starting in 2010. Of those dogs, Keith said the group has successfully adopted out all but two, who were just rescued during Christmas.

Former child actor Corey Feldman was on hand to be the first to carry in a rescue that the organization named Whitie.

Former "Baywatch" actress Alexandra Paul, a two-time foster mother for Beagle Freedom Project, attended Wednesday's event to find a dog for her twin sister Caroline.

"To be able to show them freedom and love for the first time in their lives - in their four years of life - was just an amazing opportunity," Paul said of her two former foster pups. "It gave as much to me as the dogs were getting."

Some like Paul teared up Wednesday, while others giggled at the sight of the beagles getting comfortable with their surroundings, finally wagging their tails as they explored the yard stopping only to sniff at people's feet as well as each other.

"This is, literally, the beginning of their lives," Feldman said. "This is the first day of the rest of their lives."

Actor Corey Feldman holds Whitie, one of ten beagles rescued from a research laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project. The dogs traveled nearly 1,500 miles to their new home in Valley Village, Calif., and arrived on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

Ten beagles rescued from a research laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project inspect their new home. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

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