One rescue dog has gone from a life of animal testing and inhumane breeding to being one of the world’s most most pampered pets.
The 7-year-old beagle named Mamma Mia was adopted this month from a California rescue organization by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
“It was surreal,” Shannon Keith, president and founder of the Beagle Freedom Project, told McClatchy News. “When they walked in the door, Mamma Mia just ran to them. It’s like she knew, ‘These are my people,’ and they knew, ‘This is our dog.’”
Mamma Mia is one of thousands of beagles that were rescued from a Virginia facility where the dogs were being bred for sale to testing laboratories. The owners of the facility, Envigo and its parent company, Inotiv, agreed to close it down after it became the target of dozens of animal cruelty complaints.
While the nearly 4,000 dogs rescued likely will lead happier lives than they would have if they’d remained at the facility, very few will find themselves in the homes of royalty.
“Mamma Mia is now a duchess doggie,” Keith said.
Even her puppies—seven females and one male who are all in foster homes—are getting royal titles.
“We’re calling her puppies ‘princesses’ and ‘prince,’ and they have no clue,” she said.
The royal couple came to the beagle rescue’s headquarters in Valley Village, a neighborhood in northwestern Los Angeles, on Aug. 11, to meet their new family member, Keith said. Markle had specifically requested to adopt an older dog from a troubled past, and Keith knew she’d be a great caretaker for Mamma Mia.
“(Mamma Mia) was not only bred and bred and bred, she was also tested on and had her babies stolen from her,” Keith said. “She was starved, and some of her babies died because of it. And now, she’s living the life. It’s a Cinderella story.”
But what matters most, Keith said, is not that Mamma Mia is now living with a duke and duchess in a mansion in Montecito; it’s that she’s with a family who cares for her.
“They were asking all the right questions,” Keith said of the royal couple when they came to pick up Mamma Mia. “And asking, ‘Is there anything special she likes?’
“They were so humble, so sweet, so nice,” she said.
When the couple was getting ready to leave the rescue headquarters, Keith said the prince stopped and told her that he had noticed Mamma Mia sniffing around a small house at the back of the property.
“Prince Harry said, ‘We can’t leave yet because there’s something she wants in that back house,’” she said.
Another employee of the beagle rescue, Melina Shirley, brought the couple and their new dog into the back house, where Mamma Mia overturned and rifled through a toy bin until she pulled out a stuffed fox. The toy was one that Shirley had bought for her right after she was rescued from the Virginia facility.
“Prince Harry said, ‘I knew it,’” Keith said. “’Now she has her toy. We can take her home.’”