It was a moment of pure joy.
Eighteen beagle pups, who have never experienced life outside a cage, got their first sniff of outside air, and played on grass for the first time Thursday at the Humane Society of Sarasota County.
"This day is exactly what we live for," said Anna Gonce, executive director of the Humane Society.
"You know, these guys were rescued from what was going to be a very miserable life," she said. "And to be able to give them their first day outside, underneath the blue sky, and the grass and trees and just watch them play and be normal dogs is what we've been waiting for all week," she said.
The dogs were rescued earlier this year after the federal government began a civil enforcement case Envigo RMS, which owned and operated a facility that breeds beagles for medical research.
After federal officials accused the company of a series of animal welfare violations, including allegedly killing animals instead of providing medical care, a judge issued a restraining order imposing a series of restrictions on the facility. In June, company officials announced plans to close it.
The Humane Society of the United States took on the task of caring for the rescued animals, disbursing them around the U.S. The Sarasota County chapter received 18 pups, who were quarantined for about seven days -- until Thursday, when they were able to run free for the first time.
"Oh, my goodness. I couldn't wait. I was so excited," said volunteer Lori Schook, who helped get some of the pups out of their cages. "Look at all the kisses! They're so sweet.
"Some of them are scared, and some of them want all your attention," Schook said. "But they're so sweet. This why I do this. I love it."
Getting them adopted will not be a problem, Gonce said. They've gotten about 400 applications for these 18 beagles.
"What's amazing about these dogs is even though they lived in very terrible circumstances, you can see how much they trust people," Gonce said. "So as long as their adopters go slow and just give them the time they need to adjust, and just realize that every single thing they're doing is the first time they've ever done it, they will be fine and they are going to make wonderful family pets."
All beagles will be neutered, microchipped, dewormed, heartworm tested, current on vaccinations, as well as given flea, tick, and parasite preventatives.
"You know, this is this is a happy day for us," Gonce said. "It's a happy day for the dog ... And that's all we're thinking about today."
Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago takes in beagles rescued from breeding facility
The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago is joining the nationwide effort to rescue several beagles from a breeding facility in Virginia.
More than 35 1-year-old female beagles arrived overnight Thursday at the shelter and got some much-needed love.
The pups met their foster families Friday and move one step closer to finding their forever homes.
Several of the dogs may soon be available for adoption.
ABC7 Chicago contributed to this post.