By Kama Einhorn
Juno the beagle showed her pink belly as her guardian, Kate Aubrey, spoke to a group of about 50 children at HEART’s Caring Kids program.
“I named her Juno when I adopted her,” Kate explained to the group, which ranged in age from 4 to 11. “Before that, she only had a federal ID number.”
Juno is a Freegle—that is, one of the 120 beagles rescued from a bankrupt New Jersey research laboratory in July of 2010, when Best Friends Animal Society and Pets Alive Sanctuary teamed up for a historic rescue event. Like Juno, they have all been adopted into loving homes.
“What was her number?” a girl in the front asked.
Aubrey lifted Juno’s ear and squinted as she read the tattooed numbers inside. “It’s faded,” she said. “Let’s see…it’s 51413.”
“Do they stamp the numbers in their ears or tattoo them on?” a boy asked.
“They tattoo them on,” Aubrey said. That sad piece of information was fitting preparation for World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week (April 21-29, 2012).
The conversation was made possible by HEART volunteer Gail Frydkowski, who had invited Kate and Juno to speak at HEART’s Caring Kids program at Animal Haven in SoHo, an after-school program in which animal-loving kids get together to learn about animal welfare issues and take action. HEART instructor Kim Korona introduced Kate and Juno and facilitated the session.
“Juno was used for inhalation testing, when they force animals to breathe in ingredients used in household and personal care products until they get sick,” Kate explained to the group. “But not all companies do this. Some companies have compassion toward animals and don’t test their products on them.”
To remind kids that each and every one of them can make a difference by not supporting companies that test on animals, she distributed Juno’s Compassionate Shopping Guide, which lists more than 1,500 companies that don’t use animal testing (the free guide is available at www.JunoRescuedBeagle.com).
After children had a chance to ask questions about Juno and animal testing, they lined up for a special meet and greet with the friendly, docile beagle, who calmly and patiently greeted each and every child.
“The animals don’t want to be tested, they are forced to,” observed fourth-grader Elliot Sadoff after the presentation. Elliot is a regular at the Friday afternoon program. “If you don’t buy products that are tested on animals the companies will shut down,” he said. “Then shelters will take the animals and give them a caring home. Juno is just so nice it made me want to stop animal testing.”
Elliot’s mom, Alyssa Sadoff, also attended the presentation. “Elliot loves animals and has always had a special connection to them,” she said. “Caring Kids is a great way for him to be introduced to all different types of animal issues. It’s an interest we share and I’m glad we can do it together.”
“Kids can do something to help animals,” Elliot added. “Even if it is something small. They can tell other people at their school and their families about helping animals.”
“We had been hearing about Juno and were thrilled to finally meet her,” Alyssa said. “Kate introduced the issue of animal testing in an age-appropriate way that made the kids think about what they could do to stop animal testing. We have already started looking for products on Juno’s list—ones that are not tested on animals, and checking bottles and packages for the symbols that Kate introduced as cruelty-free.”
HEART’s Executive Director, Meena Alagappan, also attended the event, along with Board Chair Brad Goldberg. “Associating the face of a gentle dog with the hidden suffering behind product testing was a powerful experience for not only the kids, but also the parents present,” said Meena. “After meeting Juno and receiving his compassionate shopping guide, many of them were motivated to buy cosmetics and household products without sacrificing kindness to animals. Juno and Kate are effective ambassadors for laboratory animals.”
Kama Einhorn is a freelance writer, former deputy editor of Sesame Street Magazine, and a HEART volunteer.