We had a meeting with some of the top dog staff one afternoon who showed us some undercover video footage and then we were asked questions about it. There were around 20 staff in the room, some trainees, some licence holders. Not one person answered the questions. Everyone just sat there, silent. Most of the staff had a very uncaring attitude towards the animals and they seemed to be able to just “switch off” to what was happening.

If you didn’t “fit in” with the team you were given all the horrible things to do, more dogs to clean out, more procedures to hold for. You didn’t get all your breaks, you were given procedures to ‘hold for’ at lunchtime so you’d have to have a late lunch. The same people time and time again got away without cleaning out, and never had to miss a break or usual lunch time. They were invited on lunches out and were gone for an hour and a half and sometimes came back smelling of alcohol.

I was told that whenever you start something in a unit, before going into the unit, you write your start time in the day book. When you finish you enter the finish time and initial it. Sometimes you were so busy you forgot to put a finish time or anything at all.

At the end of the day the books were all checked by a licence holder and signed. If you had forgotten to write a time you were told to make one up. This is falsifying data and shouldn’t be done.

When the dogs are on a study they are on a computer system, either VMS or Xybion. This is the first 8.30am and the final check is at 4.30pm. The dogs are left from 4.30pm til 8.30am without a check. At 6pm the lights went out in the unit (by timer switch) and at 6am the lights came back on.

You do get quicker but on busy days you’d get given half an hour to clean out 32 dogs and of course corners were cut and edges of pens would gradually build up with urine and faeces and sawdust. When you did get enough time it took much longer, or you were made to do a unit which had been neglected for a while and it was horrible.

Sometimes the dirtiness of a unit hit you as soon as you went in, and the dogs were living in it all the time. The units are supposed to be power-hosed every four weeks which meant the dogs being moved to another nearby unit and their unit being powerhosed. This didn’t happen every four weeks, sometimes because we were too busy, short-staffed or it was just overlooked. When the unit was eventually powerhosed the pen bars would be thick with faeces and it took hours to clean.

We work to a ‘protocol’ which tells us how many dogs will be on that study, and what class the study will be. Class ‘4’ is a hazard group and once the study starts everyone that enters that unit has to wear a boiler suit, mask, gloves and over-shoes. If I was caught entering that room without all of these I would be in trouble but I have seen my team leader, vets, study directors and the NACWO all enter the room without any of these on. Then they go into another unit. What are they passing on?

So there was a pre-dose bleed, then at around 9am the dogs would be dosed at two minute intervals. The study directors would come over and they are supposed to check everything was done correctly but they would stand in the way and chat generally between themselves and not take any notice of the study starting. The next bleed would be 15 mins after dose, 2 hours after dose, 8 hours after dose, 12 hours after dose and 24 hours after dose. When the 15 min, 30 min and 1 hour bleeds were being done, there would be at least two teams bleeding, which would be a licence holder and a carrier.

The dogs were in and out of their pens constantly and they would get a bit uncooperative and agitated. The necks would be very bruised and swollen and they would still go in and take the blood. One licence holder I worked with would go in and out about five times with the same needle, not hitting the vein. The amount the same needle could be used was two. I reported this to my team leader but nothing was done.

If we had a naughty dog who wasn’t going to sit still it would take longer than the two minute intervals and we’d constantly be running backwards and forwards with the dogs, some of which weigh 12-13kg plus, to make up the time. The time was never changed if it took longer, so again people were falsifying data. We would be expected to do overtime for the 8 and 12 hour bleeds and it wasn’t liked if we said no. On busy days like the start of a new study, the animals didn’t get any exercise time and weren’t paired up until after the 8 hour or 12 hour bleed. They always looked so sad on these days.

The different ways a dose is put into an animal are capsule, sub-cut, oral gavage, infusion, dermal, eye-drops. Capsule was as it says, a capsule which was quite big. It was given to the dog in its single pen, by a licence holder, put to the side of the mouth at the back and pushed down with the thumb. I have found the capsule in the dog’s food bowl. I told a licence holder, who threw it in the bin.

I told the team leader after I had got the capsule out of the bin that the capsule wasn’t damaged by saliva and could have been given to the dog again. There should have at least been a comment made in the day book that that dog hadn’t been dosed that day but nothing. The team leader was going to speak to the licence holder about it, but it wasn’t done and no comment was ever made in the day book because I checked.

Sub-cut: means subcutaneous.
This was an injection done under the skin on the scruff. The scruff had to be shaved weekly and marked into a rectangle divided into two with a permanent marker pen. The injection was done in one side one day, the other side the next day. After the fluid had been injected there would be a lump on their neck. The particular study I had was a painkiller from puffa-fish. As soon as you took the first dog out to be dosed, the group 4 dogs would start salivating very heavily, shaking their heads, and by the time they were dosed their pens would be soaked with saliva and very often they would vomit before dose because they knew what was coming.

After dose, most groups 3 & 4 would vomit and be underactive for up to an hour. The Group 2 dose was actually injected into a colleague by a licence holder, not the whole dose but part of it. This was just washed by a first aider. I had some of the dose squirted into my eye by a licence holder because the dog moved.

* I saw blood taken from a dog and put in the wrong blood tube. It was then poured into the right tube without it being washed. A new tube should have been used.

* Untrue readings, licence holder incompetence. Nothing ever noted and no-one else told.

* Some dogs were being put to sleep, and [a worker] had missed taking the blood from one of them. The team leader came running down and took the blood from the dog once it was dead. That blood sample would NOT have been a true blood sample.

* It was a licence holder’s job to check the dog’s tattoo in the ear before doing any procedure on it. Very often the procedure was done and then the dog’s ear would be checked.

* Restraining of animals: Very often a dog did not want to sit beside you on a chair for a procedure. They would struggle and not sit down. As soon as anything went near the dog they would cry and want to get down. Sometimes as many as three people would have to hold one dog, which made the dog more upset. A licence holder would grab the dog by its scruff, sometimes lifting the dog up off the chair, have the dog hanging and really shout at it to behave. Sometimes they would hold the scruff, whilst the dog was sitting on the chair, and push its head and neck down whilst shouting at it.

* During a sub-cut study, the dose would come over from the pharmacy daily. The dose came in brown jars with a label on it for the control, group 2 etc. The amount of liquid was weighed out at pharmacy for how much was needed, plus a little extra. The dose bottles were weighed again when they reached us and the weight recorded.
When the dosing was over, each bottle was weighed again. On a number of occasions the final weight was way under what it should be, meaning that some of the dogs had been given too much dose. This was recorded in the weight sheet and it must have been covered up one way or another because it was never recorded in the day book and the NACWO was never informed. This certainly would have had an effect on the end result data of the study. Once I overheard that the weights weren’t right and kept a look out in the day books. I asked the licence holder what would happen. They said they didn’t know.

* Needles were repeatedly put into dogs’ necks, often more than 5 times before a new needle was used. The dogs get terrible bruising and lumps on their necks but they still continued to have blood taken from the same areas.

There is often a short supply of products like needles, gloves, masks, disinfectants and detergent. When you go to a store room and there is none there you have to search the whole dog building to see if another team can spare some. Disinfectant to clean the floors was in very short supply and we often had to water it down so we could make it last longer. Sometimes there wasn’t a team in the whole building that had any. Supplies came in once a week and were ordered by a former team leader who was always telling us just how much each item cost and that we should use things much more sparingly than we did.

* Some dogs that had been there for nearly a year had been on three studies. On one of the studies they all had their thyroid glands taken out by surgery. Then they constantly had to have thyroid tablets. In the end, after being there for so long, they got so bored that they started fighting regularly.

One weekend, a worker wasn’t in the unit excercising them, she was outside the unit keeping an eye on them and they started having a really nasty fight. Instead of shouting for help, she just stood there and watched the dogs fight. She then said ‘they’re having a fight’ and we rushed in and tried to separate them. About 6 or 7 dogs were attacking one dog. They had hold of it by its ear, legs, tail and hind leg. The dog was yelping and screaming.

The weekend worker just stood and watched while it took us a long time to get the dogs off. The injured dog was bleeding badly, its ear was almost in two. The injured dog was taken into the annexe. The vet and NACWO were called. They decided that because the dogs were going to be killed next week anyway, they would just euthanase him there and then. A similar fight took place the next day and again the dog was terminated.

I worked in one team where the dosers would race each other to see who could get all the dosing done the quickest, as this was usually done before morning break and the quicker it was done the quicker we could go to break. I’m sure that this is what resulted in the dogs always being given the wrong amount of dosage.

* There was a study that made dogs grow warts. These were put into two units. That end of the annexe was cordoned off, a false wall was put up, dividing the rest of the unit from the end 3, so there was a spare unit for powerhosing. Everything that was put this end was cleaned with Virkon. Every pen, bin, bowls, toys etc was Virkoned. These dogs had procedures done by a “gun” like instrument which they shot onto six sites on the stomach. These dogs had to be sedated because it was a painful experience. They had four lots of treatment over approx. 6-7 weeks, then the warts started to grow in the dogs’ mouths. Some of the warts were enormous. They were measured each week on health check.
One of the little female dogs had these warts all up her nose and legs... I was told: “Oh she’s being put down in a few weeks - it doesn’t matter...”

When the study came to the end, the dogs were put down in the annexe, not taken to the normal place to be put to sleep. This was questioned and the answer given to me was “I’m not answering your questions”. I also asked how many dogs were being put in each yellow bin bag, and given the same answer. The dogs were put in yellow bags and wheeled down to necropsy in a large yellow skip-type smallish bin we used to take rubbish out in or go and get small amounts of sawdust and food in. I know for a fact that this wasn’t washed first.

The units were cleaned out and then all three units were powerhosed. The dividing wall was taken down. Then the units were used to put dogs in overnight whilst their unit was powerhosed. The two units of dogs that were put into these units developed warts. Not all the dogs got warts but a good 60% of them did.

One female dog in particular had warts in her mouth, and on her face, legs and paws. They were big warts. The dog was then given a nasty nickname because of her warts, and a male worker used to call her ‘dirty bitch’, ‘slag’ etc. It was then discovered that the warts had come from the “wart study” because:

a) the units hadn’t been powerhosed properly,
b) they should have been Virkoned again to kill any remaining germs.The unit wasn’t Virkoned again and then another study was put in there for a 13 week study.

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...