2008-05-11 14:57:16 UTC
Greyhound breeder offers slow dogs to be killed for research
The largest breeder of greyhounds in Britain is offering to sell
healthy young dogs to be killed and dissected for research, an
investigation has found.
Charles Pickering told an undercover reporter that his breeding
programme continually throws up dozens of “fit and healthy” dogs that
are “just a bit too slow for the tracks” and therefore a financial
burden to him.
Pickering, who offered to sell them for £30 each, said he was helping
to supply dogs to the animal teaching hospital at Liverpool
He provides yearling greyhounds to Richard Fielding, a greyhound
trainer, who gives his older dogs for free to university veterinary
staff, who put them to sleep and remove organs for teaching and
Pickering said he wanted to keep his dealings “nice and confidential”
because it was “extremely sensitive”. The disclosure throws fresh
light on the way in which the greyhound racing industry treats both
retired dogs and those that fail to make the grade.
The Sunday Times disclosed in March that the Royal Veterinary College
(RVC) was buying canine body parts from John O’Connor, a vet whose
clinic was willing to euthanase healthy greyhounds, no questions
An undercover reporter approached Pickering after hearing he was
quietly sending young dogs to be put down at Liverpool University.
Pickering, a former pig farmer, breeds about 200 racing dogs a year at
his Zigzag Kennels. Its website says: “We make the welfare of all our
stock our highest priority.”
The reporter told Pickering that he was from another university and
was interested in procuring surplus dogs for research. Pickering, 56,
who is based at Dunholme in Lincolnshire, said: “We look to sell them
[for racing] for a minimum of £200-£300 at 12 weeks [old].
“When they get to a year old we are hoping that we can get between
£800 and £20,000 for the very fastest. 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.”
Asked which of his dogs were not “suitable” for racing, he said:
“We’ve got ones that simply won’t chase, 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.”
Pickering said he had been supplying up to 30 dogs a year to Liverpool
University but “we could do more if required”. He later said that the
dogs sent to Liverpool had either “finished racing or they are the
ones that don’t make the grade” and were taken there by Fielding, who
is accredited by the National Greyhound Racing Club, the sport’s
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.
“I do give as many away for pets as we can, but these young ones, they
are not used to the house environment. 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.”
Fielding, who is based in Lancashire told the reporter he had four
“very healthy” dogs which he was happy to have taken away and killed
“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.
When contacted by the Sunday Times he denied taking any of Pickering’s
dogs to the university and insisted the only greyhounds he took there
were old and not rehomeable.
Pickering later denied ever having sent dogs for research.
Dr Eithne Comerford, who works at the university’s hospital and had
arranged to take greyhounds from Fielding, told the undercover
reporter that it was “not something we’re particularly mad about . . .
we’re all vets”. She 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”.
A spokeswoman for Liverpool University defended its activities. “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.”