‘Rescue’ of beagles from Blue Mounds animal testing facility leads to criminal charges against activists

Animal rights activists from out of state were charged Wednesday in Dane County for allegedly stealing three beagles from an animal testing and breeding facility in the town of Blue Mounds more than four years ago.

Eva Hamer, of Illinois, Wayne Hsiung, of California, and Paul Picklesimer, of California, are facing felony theft and burglary charges for the April 2017 incident.

A criminal complaint alleges they worked together to steal three dogs reportedly worth $3,600 from Ridglan Farms, a facility in the town of Blue Mounds that breeds and sells more than 3,000 beagles annually to medical researchers, including UW-Madison.

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  • The three, who are part of the California-based animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), admitted to taking the dogs in several social media posts, in which they characterized the theft as a “rescue,” according to the criminal complaint. DxE also shared a video that shows activists breaking into a Ridglan Farms’ barn housing hundreds of beagles, and leaving with multiple dogs.

“We took out Julie and two other dogs, but in order to help animals like Julie, we need your help,” Hsiung wrote to his followers in 2018, according to the complaint.

The video spurred backlash against Ridglan Farms and resulted in a 2018 referendum in nearby Mount Horeb to ban selling or using cats and dogs for animal testing. Local organizers were hoping the referendum could spark momentum for other areas to ban animal testing, but the measure failed after a little more than 40% of residents voted in support.

The Dane County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a question about why it took so long to file charges in the case.

According to the criminal complaint:

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report from the Ridglan manager and veterinarian that three individuals broke into his facility in the early morning hours of April 17, 2017 and three dogs valued at $3,600 were missing from their cages.

The manager told police that door alarms went off around 12:30 a.m. and again at 1:34 a.m., 1:43 a.m., 2:38 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. He came out to inspect the facility at 12:45 a.m., but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary so he left, and ignored the subsequent alarms. Later that morning, three dogs were identified as missing.

The suspects weren’t identified until more than a year later when a private organization the manager hired found the DxE video online.

Detectives identified Hamer, Hsiung and Picklesimer in social media posts promoting the video and DxE’s activism work. They also match the physical appearances of those seen on video breaking into the Ridglan facility.

“We rescued Anna from Ridglan, a facility that breeds beagles for use in experiments, holding nearly 4,000 dogs at a time,” Hamer wrote in a May 2018 Facebook post.

“These poor dogs all wanted to be rescued from this life of exploitation,” Picklesimer wrote in a post of his own. “We rescued Julie and two others and if anyone on the outside treated them like (Ridglan) Farm did, they would face charges of criminal animal abuse.”

Each of the three activists faces up to nine years in prison and seven years of extended supervision.