From Cruelty to Compassion — Animal Testing Lab Transforms into Sanctuary

In the quiet town of Nowata, Oklahoma, a 30-acre property that once echoed with the cries of animals undergoing painful tests is now filled with the sounds of happy, playful creatures.

This land, previously an animal testing facility, has been transformed into Freedom Fields, a sanctuary for rescued animals, thanks to the tireless efforts of Shannon Keith and her organization, the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), reports USA Today.

The Birth of Freedom Fields

Freedom Fields is the realization of a dream for Shannon Keith, an animal rights attorney who founded the BFP in 2010. Her organization has a history of rescuing and rehoming animals used in laboratory testing.

As the Washington Post reports, the site in Nowata, previously used by pharmaceutical and pesticide companies, represented a significant opportunity. After negotiating with the facility’s owner, John Riner, Keith was able to purchase the property and halt all testing activities there as of February 1, 2024.

A Safe Haven for Rescued Animals

The transition from a testing facility to a sanctuary has been monumental. The facility was notorious for its cruel testing practices on dogs and cats, which included toxic chemical exposures that caused severe burns, seizures, and other health issues, reports Species Unite.

The BFP took over more than 200 animals, including newborn puppies and a family of six pigs. These animals, previously confined to small metal cages, now enjoy open spaces, proper medical care, and nutritious food.

Keith and her team are committed to providing the animals with a safe and nurturing environment. The sanctuary features new barns and habitats, replacing the inadequate structures that once housed the animals. Future plans include a senior dog center equipped with orthopedic beds and water treadmills, and an education center where visitors can learn about the realities of animal testing and meet the survivors, reports People.

Rescue and Rehabilitation Efforts

The story of Freedom Fields is one of transformation and hope. The animals at the sanctuary are undergoing rehabilitation to overcome their traumatic pasts. According to the Washington Post, many have significant health issues such as arthritis and cataracts, conditions that require extensive care. Keith’s ultimate goal is to rehome these animals, giving them the chance to live out their lives in loving homes.

Emily Clayton, a rescue manager for BFP, relocated to the property to oversee the daily operations and ensure the animals receive the best care possible.

“They’re getting much better care than they were before, and we’re making such positive changes every day,” Clayton told People.

The transformation of the property includes creating spaces for various animals, such as pigs, chickens, and rabbits, in addition to a dog park and a “catio.”

The Role of Beagle Freedom Project

The BFP has a long history of advocating for animals used in testing. Since its inception, the organization has helped liberate over 4,000 animals and has successfully passed the Beagle Freedom Bill in 13 states, mandating the adoption of dogs and cats from labs rather than euthanizing them, reports Species Unite.

The organization’s efforts extend beyond rescue operations. They are actively involved in legislative advocacy, aiming to end the use of animals in testing through political means. The BFP’s Cruelty Cutter app allows consumers to identify products that have been tested on animals, promoting cruelty-free alternatives, according to the Washington Post.

A Vision for the Future

Freedom Fields is more than just a sanctuary; it is a beacon of hope and a testament to what can be achieved with dedication and compassion. Shannon Keith’s vision is to create a place where former lab animals can heal, thrive, and eventually find forever homes, NBC reports. The sanctuary also serves as an educational hub, raising awareness about the impact of animal testing and advocating for more humane alternatives.

The transformation of the Nowata facility into Freedom Fields stands as a powerful example of how change is possible, even in industries long entrenched in their ways. As renovations continue and more animals are rescued, Freedom Fields will remain a sanctuary of hope and healing, a testament to what can be achieved when we work towards a common goal of kindness and respect for all living beings.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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