Seventy beagle puppies originally intended for pharmacology research were released to adoptive families in India on Saturday, several weeks after activists alerted the Indian government that the animals had been falsely described as “pets” by the contract research organization seeking to import them.

The company, Bangalore-based Advinus, had been receiving beagle shipments from the Chinese arm of Marshall BioResources, a major research animal breeder based in North Rose, New York, since at least 2010. As Nature‘s news blog reported last month (see ‘Research dogs shipped to India under airline’s radar’), the dogs, which are a sought-after breed for toxicology research because of their docility, were flown to companies in India and Japan by Cathay Pacific, which refuses to transport research animals. Marshall had represented the dogs to the airline as being for “breeding” and “genetic research” purposes. “They won’t be hurt or killed as lab animals,” the Chinese arm of Marshall wrote to the airline.

Scott Marshall, the president and chief executive of Marshall BioResources, said last month that he needed to investigate the matter and would have no comment until he did. He did not respond to two additional e-mailed requests for comment this week.

The pups had been in quarantine in Chennai since the Cathay Pacific flight from China landed on 19 October. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in India obtained a photo of them and additional documents indicating that they were intended for research use at Advinus, and reported the information to the Indian government’s Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals. The committee investigated and, on Saturday, as The Times of India reports, the government released them for distribution to adoptive owners by Blue Cross and People for Animals, two animal groups in Chennai. The crated pups pictured are shown in the quarantine facility in Chennai shortly before their release.

This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on December 18, 2012.