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Greyhounds for research scandal

Greyhounds are being sold to universities for dissection and research according to a national newspaper. In the May 11th edition of The Sunday Times, Daniel Foggo reports how healthy, young racing Greyhounds that fail to make the grade are being sold to Liverpool University.

The campaign group Greyhound Crusaders are now appealing to dog lovers to e-mail Mr Foggo and thank him for highlighting the situation.

The article recounts how an undercover reporter was told by Charles Pickering, the largest breeder of Greyhounds in the UK, that his breeding programme throws up dozens of ‘fit and healthy’ dogs that are too slow for the track and cause a financial burden.

Mr Pickering was, apparently, offering to sell these dogs for £30 each and stated he also helped to supply animals to Liverpool University’s animal teaching hospital. Yearling dogs are supplied to trainer Richard Fielding, who gives his older dogs to the university veterinary staff. They are then put to sleep and organs removed for teaching and research purposes.

Our Dogs’ Chief Reporter, Nick Mays, has previously reported on a veterinary clinic that has been killing healthy dogs and secretly selling their body parts to the Royal Veterinary College for research. This was also first raised by Mr Foggo in The Sunday Times.

The undercover journalist approached Mr Pickering, a former pig farmer, after it was heard sending healthy young dogs to Liverpool University. About 200 racing dogs a year are bred at Mr Pickering’s Zigzag Kennels based at Dunholme in Lincolnshire. Its website says: ‘We make the welfare of all our stock our highest priority.’

The reporter approached Mr Pickering, claiming to be from another university and looking to procure some surplus dogs for research. He was told that 12-week-old dogs are sold (for racing) at about £200 -£300. A year old dog would fetch a minimum of £800, with the fastest and best going for as much as £20,000. Mr Pickering is quoted as saying ‘But, of course, along the way we get some that aren’t quite suitable. If it’s in the interest of someone for scientific purposes or study purposes, well that’s a good thing. It’s better than just being put down and disappearing.’
On being questioned as to why these dogs may not be ‘suitable’ he stated that there were ones that simply wouldn’t chase, and added, … they are absolutely healthy, fit as you could want, but just choose not to chase the artificial hare or are just a little bit too slow for the tracks. Or the ones that turn and fight.’

Mr Pickering claimed to have been supplying up to 30 dogs a year to Liverpool University but would be able to ‘do more if required’. Later he told the reporter that those taken to Liverpool were ones that had finished racing or didn’t make the grade, and that these were taken by Mr Fielding, who is accredited by the sport’s governing body, the National Greyhound Racing Club,
In an even more horrific offer, Mr Pickering said that he could supply as many dogs as required at £30 each and could even breed them specifically to be killed. ‘When we are breeding, the ones that only reach the minimum standard for what we want, if we get too many of those it becomes a complication because we have to look for pet homes and all that sort of thing,’ he said. Despite claiming to give away as many as he could to pet homes Mr Pickering stated that the
youngsters were not used to house environments and ‘If they can have a use and help someone somewhere, and it gets me a tiny bit of money back, that’s all the better for me.’

Mr Fielding told the reporter he had four ‘very healthy’ dogs that he was happy to have taken away and killed immediately.

‘I got shot of 10 old ones last year. Liverpool is a godsend in that respect because they are used for a good purpose.’ He did not charge the university for them.

He denied taking any of Mr Pickering’s dogs to the university when The Sunday Times contacted him and insisted he only took those greyhounds that were old and not suitable for rehoming. Mr Pickering later denied ever having sent dogs for research.

Dr Eithne Comerford works at the university’s hospital and had arranged to take greyhounds from Fielding. She told the undercover reporter that it was ‘not something we’re particularly mad about . . . we’re all vets’. She also stressed that the dogs were ‘euthanased properly’ and used for ‘multiple projects’. She said they were not paid for and the RVC scandal had caused ‘huge havoc’.
Defending the university’s position, a spokeswoman stated, ‘Our approach to veterinary research is of the highest ethical standard. We only carry out research on tissues of dogs and cats that have died or been euthanased and with the full consent of the animal’s owner.

Greyhound Crusaders are lobbying supporters to contact Dr Comerford at the university and complain about the arrangement to take the Greyhounds from Mr Fielding. They urge all correspondents to keep any contact polite.