The domestic dog is an inquisitive and highly social animal which actively seeks information about its surroundings. Although much of the day is spent resting, the dog requires a complex physical and social environment during the active phase. (from Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals Bred, Supplied or Used for Scientific Purposes, UK Home Office, 2014)
The UK Government approved experiments on 2496 dogs in 2017. Nine out of 10 of them were beagles. The beagle is the most popular breed for tests because they are small and docile, so relatively easy to manage. Dogs are considered by researchers to be highly suitable for toxicity testing – exploration of what happens to an animal when poisoned. To test each dog, doses of chemicals are either force-fed orally via a tube directly into the stomach or injected. Assessing the results of toxicity testing involves autopsy, which means that even if the animal survives being poisoned by chemicals they will be killed, usually by asphyxia (to avoid interfering with the information their bodies contain).
The Home Office suggests methods for managing dogs before testing and death through its Code of Practice for breeding and housing. Use of the code is checked by the twenty inspectors who regulate practice for the whole industry. Its recommendations include a provision of cages with between 0.5 and 2.25 square metres of floor space, depending on each dog’s weight, and lighting controls to simulate day and night cycles. The recommendations also suggest that dogs should ‘where possible be provided with outdoor runs’, a requirement under EU animal welfare directives. This is just one of the reasons why the Home Office’s decision on a new breeding facility is so hard to accept…
Most of the beagles used in experiments in British laboratories are bred in the UK, but not as many are available as laboratories would like to buy! That’s why Yorkshire Evergreen, part of the US Marshall Bioresources group of companies, applied to establish a breeding facility for 200 beagles at any one time, at Grimston, near Hull. This is the company that also owned and managed the Green Hill site in Italy, from which 3,000 dogs were rescued by animal lovers in January 2015, shortly after the conviction and imprisonment of its senior management team on animal cruelty charges.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the company’s directors successfully appealed to the Home Office for permission to develop the site by accepting one condition – its promise never to provide outdoor runs for the dogs it breeds. This is the contradiction which has led to a full judicial review of the Home Office approval, and Naturewatch Foundation hopes very sincerely that ministers will reconsider their support for a company with such a poor animal welfare record.
You can read more about the beagle breeding proposal on our blog page here and give yourself the chance to write to the Home Office and your MP and speak out against the plans to extend a beagle breeding facility in Yorkshire.
Making dogs more cheaply and easily available is highly likely to set back progress on the introduction of advanced non-animal methods which are more relevant to humans.
The same problem exists in the system which allows tests on dogs and other species for production of household chemicals.
What can you do?
- Share this information. Right now, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re already supportive of better animal welfare. Whether it’s through social media, printing a hand-out or just by starting a conversation about what you’ve read, please share this campaign information with someone who doesn’t know yet.
- Become a compassionate consumer. Confused about household products and their animal testing policies? We’ve done the research for you. Get your own Compassionate Shopping Guide and start today!