As any new pet parent knows, the early years in the lives of puppies and kittens are often marked by a series of firsts — first toys, first haircuts, first visits to the vet.
But for a large group of beagles in Bangalore, India, those special firsts came much later in life.
For 42 beagles, in fact, their very first baths happened just this month — though many of the pups are between 2 and 5 years old.
This pack of beagles got such a late start at even the small things like grooming because they weren't born into loving homes — they began their lives inside labs, where they had been used for medical testing since birth.
All 42 beagles were rescued earlier this month as part of an agreement between the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) and over 665 laboratories in India; it states dogs cannot be used in lab tests for longer than three years.
"In October 2015, officials in India issued new guidelines to find homes for dogs used in experiments which do not result in their death," Carla Owen, director of communications for Cruelty Free International (CFI), told The Dodo. "Under the new rules, dogs may only be subjected to tests for a maximum of three years, after which time they must be rehabilitated."
After the three years, it's up to organizations like CUPA to work with local labs on releasing the animals and helping get them adopted.
Now, a local lab has agreed to free a total of 156 beagles this year — and these 42 pups enjoying a scrub down are just the first of the bunch.
"This makes it the largest dog release operation in the world," Sandhya Madappa of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), the organization handling the release (and the baths), told the New Indian Express.
But these pups aren't worried about breaking records. For now, they're focused on getting their ears cleaned ...
... and their paws rubbed ...
... before getting toweled off.
"Though laboratory testing on dogs has been banned for cosmetic and household experiments, pharmaceutical and agrochemical companies continue do it," Chinthana Gopinath, a CUPA volunteer, told the New Indian Express.
"Around the world, healthy dogs who are no longer required by laboratories are routinely killed. Science, as well as ethics, demands a move away from experiments on dogs," Michelle Thew, chief executive of CFI, told The Dodo. "As we work towards ending the use of dogs in research, it is heartening to see steps being made to change the lives of individual animals currently suffering in laboratories. We call on governments around the world to follow India's lead and introduce mandatory homing wherever possible for these animals."
So, now that these pups are ready for their debut, it's time for another milestone: a first family.
For 25 of these squeaky clean beagles, this has already become a reality.
Though CUPA's foster partner, Hotel for Dogs, has been more than accommodating, the remaining beagles need a place of their own, far different from the metal cages they used to call home.
They also need names — they've only ever been called by a number.
"Due to lack of exposure to the outside world, they need to learn every little nuance of living in a home — using the stairs, toilet training, coming up to people for a cuddle, going on walks or even playing with a toy," CUPA wrote in a statement. "They are right now identified only by numbers. They need names, a real identity."
Watch these beagles step outside for the first time below: