Then I met my team leader. She was in the middle of doing a bleed with another member of staff. I was shocked at what I saw and thought it was quite barbaric. The holder was sitting on a stool with the dog to her right hand side also sitting on the chair. She used her right hand to hold the dog’s front legs down and keep the dog tight to her body. Her left hand was used to hold the dog’s muzzle upwards so that the neck was clearly visible to the technician taking the blood. The dogs were struggling and whimpering as the needle was stabbed and plunged in and out of their necks. I found it very difficult to watch. The trainee technician was trying to reassure the dog but it didn’t work at all.

She took me round where my team worked and I was shown the units where the dogs were, which was building J24. There were nine units my side, each unit holding a maximum of 32 dogs. Some units were empty. There were five full-time staff and one part-timer. I was shown the day books. Everything that happens in a unit each day is recorded in time in the day book, from the first time anyone goes in the unit, right through each procedure to the last thing done in there that day. When the dogs first arrive at HLS they have a number tattooed in their ear. The dog is put into the right pen, then within a few days of being there, the HLS number is tattooed into their other ear. Most dogs hate this and have to be held tight to do it. Some even mess themselves because they are so scared.

Sometimes you’d get a group of people, like 4 or 5 people, holding a dog still for a procedure and it’d always be whimpering. It’s bad enough for me to watch and I understand what’s going on, they haven’t got a clue what’s happening...it’s really horrible.

The team leader called the vets as the dogs were underactive. The vet came in the afternoon and suggested the dogs be given tablets in their water to help them as they were dehydrating. They weren’t eating either. The vet suggested something else to help them, I don’t know what. We were never told anything like that. The study director came over and the NACWO came in to see the dogs.

They had a discussion and it was decided that the dogs wouldn’t get any medication and they would see how they went over the next couple of days. I said I was unhappy about the decision but I was just a “trainee”, what did I know! The dogs, about 5 of them, were lifeless all day, more blood all day, they didn’t want to eat, drink or exercise so they were not paired up that night.

When I went in the next day, one of the dogs was dead in his pen. I went beserk and was told to go and get a coffee whilst the team leader, NACWO, vets and study directors sorted everything.

It was decided that another two dogs were to be put to sleep that day. The study was put on hold for a few days, then it was decided that the group 5 was “too high” a dose and the highest they wanted was a group 4. Two more dogs were put to sleep over the next week or so. I was talking to another Team Leader about the study and she said that they knew the group 5 was too high a dose and they knew there would be problems, but they went ahead anyway.

Some dogs were not happy to be bled and they would struggle and not sit still. The licence holder would pull them around by the scruff, shout at them, and sometimes even used to pick the dog up off the chair by its scruff and have it dangling whilst they shouted at it. It could be a very disturbing time.

I saw co-workers grab them by the scruff, shout and swear at them, swing them by the scruff and slap them. I was told I was “too close” to my dogs because when I carried them to and from procedures I would hold them tight to me and cuddle and kiss them.

Urine cages: Depending on the study, at different times throughout the study the dogs would be put into urine cages. These were very small cages, with hardly enough room for them to turn round. They were on a tray with holes in it so the urine went down the tiny holes, into a hole in the middle of the cage and down into a pot. The dogs were put into the cages at 4pm in the afternoon and taken out of the cages at about 8.40am the next morning.
As the cages were so small, when the dogs had faeces they were treading and lying down in it as they had no choice and couldn’t get away from it. Quite a few times dogs got their claws stuck in the holes of the bottom and in the morning their claw would have been pulled out and they had raw toes and couldn’t walk on that foot for days. In the morning the pots were all checked for urine. If they had been they were carried back to their pen.

If they hadn’t been they had to be catheterised, which was upsetting for the dog. They had been in the cage all night and all the dogs around them had gone back and they’d be barking and pacing. When the dogs were taken out of the cages they would be very smelly and covered in their own faeces, not at all pleasant. When they were in the cages from 4pm to 8.40am they had no water.

Oral gavage
This is done by a plastic tube inserted down the throat and into the stomach. The dose was put down the tube via a funnel and then flushed through with water to make sure all the dose was flushed into the dog. The dogs hated this procedure and often regurgitated the tube. When the tube was taken out the dogs regularly brought up the dose because they would be sick.

This was done by a cannula inserted into a vein in the leg. Each day a different foot was used so it would be 4 days before that leg was used again. The fluid was pushed through at a slow rate through a machine. The cannula would have to be taped to the leg and it took a couple of people to hold the dog’s leg whilst it went in and one person had to stand with 2 dogs whilst they were being dosed to stop the dogs pulling them out.

This was a powder or liquid put onto a shaved part of the dog, usually the back so they couldn’t bite or scratch it. It sometimes made the skin raw or red.

Medicine entering the eye by drops. Given to each dog in its pen. The dogs’ eyes in Group 4 became almost shut, red raw, hair loss, third eyelids visible.

The dogs would rub their faces continuously on the floor or pen bars as they were itching, which made their side effects much worse. The eyes became so swollen.

Every study that I took the dogs down on had to have bone marrow taken. When the dog was put to sleep, you’d be sitting on a long work top. The dog would have its front feet on me and back legs and bottom on the side.

The front leg would be shaved. We were shown how to bring the vein up for the needle to be put in. When bone marrow was to be taken, the dog wasn’t to be dead when it was taken but nearly there. The dog was laid on its back and the bone marrow taken from the chest bone. This wasn’t pleasant to sit through. Two team leaders who I done this procedure with hadn’t given the dog enough anaesthetic and it whimpered and moved. This was so upsetting for me. They didn’t give more anaesthetic but carried on.

We had to hold the needle in place so they could inject the rest when the bone marrow was done. This didn’t happen with many dogs but it shouldn’t have happened at all. One particular team leader whom I carried for didn’t clean up the blood between dogs and when the next one was taken in they could smell the blood and anaesthetic and it would panic them. I was always told not to cry, they were doing their job, the dogs bred for a purpose and now they’d done their part and they had to go.

On a night out someone from necropsy was boasting about cutting the head open and sawing through the bone to get to the brain and how the smell of blood made them hungry. They admitted that not only one dog was put in a bin bag, odd parts here and there ended up with another dog. Vans came to collect the dogs at night and took them to be burned. it always made me really sad knowing that these dogs went to be incinerated not even as a whole animal...