FBR recently talked with Carolyn Sterner, President of Beagle Rescue League, and Director of the Lab to Leash Division of the organization. We discussed her organization, beagle rescue, and the current spate of legislation to retire research beagles being introduced across the country by a group with connections to the Animal Liberation Front. What follows is an edited, condensed version of the conversation.
What is your background? How did you get involved in this? How does your background suit you for what you are doing now?
My background is actually unrelated to biomedical research. I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and NJ certified Teacher of the Handicapped with a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology. Most of my experience involves working with children with autism.
I got involved in this in a strange way. As I was putting myself through graduate school part-time, I was employed in various full-time administrative positions, and one of those was working with the IACUC and IRB at a research facility. During that time, I, of course, became friends with members of the IACUC and the veterinarians. Prior to leaving that position and working as a Behavior Analyst in 2005, the veterinarians jokingly asked me if I wanted to adopt one of the beagles at the facility. They knew I was a beagle-lover, and they were looking to approve and implement an adoption program. They struggled a bit with how to do so, though. How could they advertise the program? How could they screen adopters? They started by asking people they knew, of course. I asked if I could meet the dogs. They had me come to the lab to meet the dogs. I was nervous, expecting to see what I had seen online – terrified dogs hiding in a corner, shaking. I was literally sick to my stomach at the thought of it, but I really wanted to help. I was welcomed at the lab, and after seeing the dogs and their relationships with the techs and vets, a lot of my previous views of animal research started to change. The dogs were happy, healthy, and well socialized. They started howling and ran to the front of their kennel runs when we entered the room. Their tails were wagging, and they were just awesome! Instead of crying, which I was afraid I might do, I was smiling the entire time. I could not wait to adopt one – until my dog sitter at the time (my mother!) refused to dogsit yet another beagle for me. I was crushed, but then thought about how I might still be able to help these beagles.
Ed note: We had such a good time talking, this turned into a 5,000 word interview. To read the rest of this interview, please continue on to a page we’ve created on our website: read more.