A regal beagle is taking her place among royalty.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry adopted a dog named Momma Mia on Aug. 11, one of 4,000 beagles rescued from a breeding facility in Virginia that was found to have safety violations, Shannon Keith, president and founder of the Beagle Freedom Project, said Wednesday.
The duchess, a known beagle lover with a rescue named Guy, brought extra attention to the efforts to find homes for a group of beagles that have captivated animal lovers across the country.
Ms. Keith said that on July 29 she received a phone call “out of the blue” from Meghan, who said she had supported the rescue organization for some time and that the couple was interested in adopting a dog.
When Ms. Keith told her that the organization was about to receive a mother and her litter, the duchess immediately said she would be interested in the mother. People usually gravitate toward puppies, so the couple wanted to help a dog that needed it most.
Mia is a 7-year-old who has been used for breeding her whole life, Ms. Keith said. She is one of about 4,000 beagles that are being released from the Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., after reports of mistreatment.
The mass rescue started in July, two months after United States authorities filed a complaint in a federal court and inspectors found several violations of federal regulations at the facility. Many of the animals in the breeding operation were expected to be used in research and testing.
Ms. Keith, who is an animal rights lawyer, said it did not take Mia long to get comfortable with her new life. “The second they walked in, it’s like Momma Mia knew,” she said. “She ran over to them.”
She added, “Her tail was wagging a million miles a minute.”
The Envigo beagles had never played with toys and barely had exposure to humans before being released, according to animal rescue workers and volunteers who helped settle them in new homes. Many were afraid of sounds from the TV or even the squeak of a stuffed toy when they first entered the outside world.
When Momma Mia was taken to California, a volunteer brought her a toy fox, Ms. Keith said. She immediately knew how to play, and it was the last of her possessions she grabbed before leaving for her new home with Meghan and Harry in Montecito, Calif.
“It’s like she knew that was her new home,” Ms. Keith said. “They were just so loving towards her.”
Branches of the royal family have often committed to their preferred dog breeds for decades, Vogue reported. Queen Elizabeth has been photographed surrounded by her corgis over the years; Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, got a cocker spaniel in 2021; and Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, have had Jack Russell terriers.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had two dogs before Mia, according to Vogue. Meghan owned a beagle named Guy before marrying Prince Harry, and the couple got a black Labrador that they named Pula after their wedding.
“After a life spent being forced to give birth to litter after litter of puppies destined for laboratories, I can think of no more fitting ‘happily ever after’ than being adopted by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” said Kitty Block, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.
Momma Mia isn’t the only Envigo beagle to end up living with a well-known family. A puppy named Morty became the First Beagle of New Jersey, joining Gov. Phil Murphy, his wife, Tammy Murphy, their four children and two other dogs, said Sue Bell, executive director of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, in Fairfax Station, Va.
“They talked me in to getting another dog, and I’m so glad they did,” Mr. Murphy said in a tweet. “Welcome to the family, Morty!”
The sister of the “Dancing With the Stars” host Tom Bergeron also adopted an Envigo beagle, he said in the comments of an Instagram post where he shared a photo of the puppy, named Wilbur.
Almost 3,000 beagles have been removed from the Envigo property as of Wednesday afternoon, said Kirsten Peek, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States. The remaining thousand are expected to be released by early September.
By that point, the Humane Society, which was at the forefront of the beagle release, will have worked with about 75 shelters and rescues across the country, she said. Many of the organizations say they have been receiving more applications for adoption than there are beagles.
“It’s been very inspirational and heartwarming to see this massive movement come together to get these dogs into loving homes,” Ms. Peek said.