Discarded by the racing industry - ending up in research labs

Experimental surgery is being conducted on greyhound dogs around the country as doctors warn that dogs do suffer during their captivity and invasive procedures. 

Humane Research Australia has uncovered a string of cases in which 78 greyhounds, believed to be discarded by the racing industry, have been used in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia for dental, kidney and heart experiments. 

The experiments are cruel and abusive. They are even further unjustified when we consider the growing evidence that dogs, and other animals, are poorly representative of human biology and diseases. 

Cardiologist Dr John Pippin, Director of Academic Affairs, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in the US has said “As a cardiologist who performed similar research using dogs early in my career, I learned two truths that were game-changing for me. First, the dogs used in such research do indeed suffer and of course are killed. That cannot be spun into "humane treatment." 

"Second, the differences in canine and human cardiac anatomy, physiology, and genetic determinants are immutable, making any translation of results to humans speculative. For ethical and scientific reasons, the use of dogs or any other animals for research into human diseases and treatments must end." 

Dr Andrew Knight, BSc (Vet Biol), BVMS, CertAW, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), PhD, MRCVS, SFHEA: “Virtually all the greyhounds I’ve met in my years of veterinary practice have been docile, trusting animals. To use them to practice invasive procedures and then kill them is a profound betrayal of trust. Living animals are not disposable teaching tools. When used in teaching they should never be harmed, and every effort should always be made to adopt them into caring homes as quickly as possible. 

The revelations about the experiments on greyhounds come after the greyhound racing industry in New South Wales was temporarily shut down following footage showing industry participants were involved in live baiting, mass killings and burials of unwanted dogs.  

Legislation was passed to prohibit greyhound racing in NSW from July 2017 but has since been revoked. The unjustified exploitation of “man’s best friend” by an industry fueled by greed and indifference to suffering was found to have subjected countless smaller animals to fear, terror and extreme suffering as they were used as live bait, and the dogs themselves considered a commodity to be discarded if they were unable to run fast enough and provide a profit. Despite the clear brutality however, there is yet another facet to this malevolent industry as greyhound owners relinquish non-profitable animals to another cruel fate – the research laboratory! 

There are several reasons why this practice is so unethical: 

• Ex-racing greyhounds have already suffered the fear and distress of being used in the racing industry. Their use in research is the ultimate betrayal and one that cannot be condoned in a caring society. 

• The use of ex-racing dogs creates a dependence on an industry renowned for its mistreatment of animals and is therefore taking advantage of the human irresponsibility and cruelty rather than addressing the problem. 

• The primary justification for using ex-racing dogs in research is that they are already destined to die, so their use in cruel experiments will give their lives and deaths purpose. But these animals are sentient individuals and not mere tools for research. They already have their own intrinsic worth. 

• The major anatomical, genetic and metabolic differences between humans and dogs make them inappropriate models for the study of human disease and biology. 

Meet Mickey

Mickey was a procedure training dog in a Victorian institution. 

The former racing dog was used for practicing ultra sounds, giving tablets, taking blood, applying wound dressings and putting in drips. He was due to be killed at the end of his “use” but was rescued just prior to his scheduled demise. 

Mickey is one of the lucky dogs that has been given a new life. 

He is currently going through a second puppyhood - often mischievous and very playful. An unusual trait is his lack of reaction when he experiences any minor procedure like having his nails clipped – perhaps a legacy from his institutional past, but he is in a safe environment with a family who adores him. He enjoys long walks around the neighbourhood and his collection of soft toys, but like most greyhounds, his favourite pastime is curling up on the couch. 

A snapshot of greyhound experiments from around Australia: 

CASE STUDY 1: Greyhounds have haemorrhage induced and then killed for kidney injury experiments 

Murdoch University WA used 7 male greyhound dogs in an attempt to document particular changes in their urine subsequent to artificially inducing a model of renal (kidney) injury produced by haemorrhage and colloid fluid resuscitation. 

The dogs used in the experiment were ‘donated’ to the hospital and scheduled to be used as terminal blood donors. 

First, the dogs were fasted for at least 8 hours before the experimental procedure. They were then anaesthetised, intubated, and mechanically ventilated. A cannula was then inserted the cranial vena cava (vein) via the right jugular vein for collecting blood samples and for injecting lithium chloride. The left femoral artery was also cannulated in order to facilitate the removal of blood to generate experimental haemorrhage, as well as to measure mean arterial pressure and lithium chloride voltage for cardiac output calculation. After a femoral nerve block was performed, the femoral artery was surgically exposed and a cannula inserted. A transducer was then positioned at the level of the right atrium (of the heart). A urinary catheter was also inserted into the bladder for collecting urine samples and measuring urine output. 

Blood and urine samples were collected throughout the experiment. 

Following the above ‘instrumentation’, blood was removed from the dogs via the femoral artery catheted for 60 minutes, causing haemorrhage. 

Following haemorrhage, the dogs were infused with a solution (gelatin-based colloid) for 3 hours. This experimental procedure produced acute renal tubular damage in the dogs. 

The dogs were then killed via an injection of pentobarbital, and their kidneys removed. 

(Davis, J, Raisis, A, Cianciolo, R, Miller, D, Shiel, R, Nabity, M & Hosgood, G 2016. ‘Urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin concentration changes after acute haemorrhage and colloid-mediated reperfusion in anaesthetized dogs’, Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, 43: 262-270.)

CASE STUDY 2: Dogs deliberately suffocated, hearts removed, transplanted and then killed 

Researchers from Alfred Hospital and Monash University used 12 greyhound dogs in an attempt to investigate methods of preserving resuscitated hearts (perfusion devices) following ‘donation after circulatory death’ (DCD), and to assess recovery following subsequent heart transplantation. 

12 greyhounds were randomly allocated to one of two groups; 8 into the perfusion group, and 4 into the cold static storage group. They were pre-medicated with acetylpromazine (used in animals as a means of chemical restraint), and then anaesthetised, intubated, and mechanically ventilated (to allow them to breathe). 

The left femoral vein (in the thigh) was cannulated (tube insertion) for fluid infusion and the artery for haemodynamic monitoring respectively. A catheter was also inserted via the right internal jugular vein (in the neck) for measurement of cardiac output and monitoring of filling pressure. A median sternotomy was performed on the dogs and a baseline epicardial echocadiogram (a sonogram of the heart) was obtained. 

Researchers then deliberately ceased ventilation for 30 minutes in order to kill the dogs via asphyxia, thereby causing circulatory death (the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs) 

The hearts of the dogs were then surgically removed and preserved for 4 hours by either the static cold storage method, or the controlled reperfusion method. 

After the 4-hour period, heart transplantation was performed and the dogs’ recovery was assessed over the following 4 hours. 

All of the greyhounds were then killed. 

(Rosenfeldt, F, Ou, R, Salamonsen, R, Marasco, S, Zimmet, A, Byrne, J, Cosic, F, Saxena, P & Esmore, D 2016. ‘A Novel Combination Technique of Cold Crystralloid Perfusion But Not Cold Storage Facilitates Transplantation of Canine Hearts Donated After Circulatory Death – Cold crystralloid perfusion for DCD heart preservation’, Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. Unpublished manuscript.)

HRA sought advice from a senior cardiologist on this experiment. Their response:

"Monash and the Alfred Hospital have the combined resources, to test the preservation fluid effect on human hearts – hearts that are available if they are not able to be used for heart transplantation.

This could have been ground breaking work.

The use of greyhounds in this instance ignored the NHMRC guidelines for Use of Animals in Scientific Research, where replacement of animals, ie developing alternatives, is the first and foremost principle.

The greyhounds were asphyxiated under anaesthesia, and this makes me feel very uneasy. This is obviously not the same as a human donor who may have brain damage from a car accident and develop brain death over many days.

This work will in any case have to be done in humans hearts making the distress, anxiety and suffering of the greyhounds, sadly enough, pointless." 

-  Prof. Anne Keogh, MBBS MD FRACP

CASE STUDY 3: Greyhounds used to test drug-screening analysis of doping drugs 

This study, funded by the Victorian government, used 14 greyhound dogs in an attempt to investigate screening methods relating to the administration of three drugs used for doping purposes (all erythropoietins, a hormone secreted by the kidneys that increases the rate of production of red blood cells in response to falling levels of oxygen in the tissues). 

The greyhounds were split into three groups with each receiving a different drug. 6 dogs were administered with Eprex, 4 dogs with Aranesp, and 4 dogs with Mircera. 

Urine and blood samples were collected over 7 days for the Eprex cohort, 10 days for the Aranesp cohort, and 14 days for the Mircera cohort. All drugs were administered intravenously on day 3. 

Following collection, the urine and blood samples were screened for erythropoietin. 

The fate of greyhounds at the conclusion of the experiment is not stated. 

(Timms, M, Steel, R & Vine J 2016. ‘Identification of recombinant human EPO variants in greyhound plasma and urine by ELISA, LC-MS/MS and western blotting: a comparative study’, Drug Test. Analysis, 8: 164-176)

CASE STUDY 4: Greyhounds used in ‘a series of acute experiments’ with rotary blood pumps implanted in their hearts 

Researchers from Monash University and Alfred Hospital used 5 greyhound dogs in ‘a series of acute experiments’ in an attempt to investigate the physiological characteristics associated with or underlying ventricular suction in relation to rotary blood pump function. 

The dogs were premedicated with acetylpromazine (used in animals as a means of chemical restraint) and atropine (a muscle relaxant), and then anaesthetised. The dogs then had a number of monitoring lines inserted into their hearts, including a pulmonary artery catheter system, as well as a number of separate cannulae inserted via surgical cut-down. The rotary blood pump device was then implanted into the dogs’ hearts. 

Following implantation, a number of different circulatory states were induced, such as changes in blood volume and other effects induced by the use of different drugs. Different ‘pumping states’ were analysed (normal flow, mild suction, severe suction, and suction with arrhythmias). 

In one of the dogs, ‘the severity of suction progressed to a level not seen in the others’. 

The fate out of greyhounds at the conclusion of the experiment is not stated. 

(Salamonsen, R, Lim, E, Moloney, J, Lovell, N & Rosenfeldt, F 2015. ‘Anatomy and Physiology of Left Ventricular Suction Induced by Rotary Blood Pumps’, Artificial Organs, 39(8): 681-690.)

CASE STUDY 5: Greyhounds given dental implants then killed 

Six healthy female greyhounds aged between 1 and 2 years were used by the Melbourne Dental School in this experiment

Prior to induction, each dog was sedated, a catheter was inserted into the foreleg and then general anaesthesia was induced. Local anaesthesia was then provided to the facial region. Incisions were made along the gums in front of the teeth so the tissue could be peeled back and the buccal bone (the bone in which teeth sit) was exposed. 

Two upper teeth (the maxillary incisors) were then removed from each dog using a luxator (a specially designed periodontal ligament knife ) to cut and forceps to pull. Once the implants were installed the gap between the implant and surrounding bone walls was measured. 

A coin toss was used to determine which implant would be submerged; a ‘closure screw’ and a ‘healing abutment’ were then installed at this implant. To encourage bone regrowth, the gaps between the implant and bone were then filled with a bone substitute (derived from cow) and covered with a ‘resorbable collagen membrane’ (derived from pig). The soft tissue below each implant was then cut with three incisions so as to become a ‘flap’. This flap was pulled to completely cover the ‘submerged’ implant and to cover only the buccal bone and “filling” of the ‘non-submerged’ implant. 

Post-operative care included administration of a non-steroidal analgesic, and an injection of antibiotics directly into the muscle. 

During the first two weeks dogs received daily inspections and three times a week had their teeth brushed to control plaque. At three months all the dogs were killed with an injection of Lethabarb®. The front portion of the upper jaws was then surgically removed and sent to a laboratory to be prepared for analysis. 

(Mellati E, Chen S, Davies H, Fitzgerald W, Darby I 2015. 'Greyhound –Healing of Bio-Oss® grafted marginal gaps at implants placed into fresh extraction sockets of incisor teeth in dogs: a study on the effect of submerged vs. non-submerged healing'. Clinical Oral Implants ResearchAnat. Histol. Embryol., 45: 161-172.)

CASE STUDY 6: Greyhounds used in cardiovascular system study – highlighting significant intra-breed and intraspecies differences 

University of Adelaide used 34 greyhound cadavers (22 male, 12 female) in an attempt to investigate intraspecific variations of branching patterns of the subclavian artery. 

The greyhound cadavers were used to prepare coloured silicone casts of the arch of the aorta and the cranial arteries. This involved cutting the ribs and sternum to remove the pericardium and left lung, clamping the aorta, washing the aorta and arteries with saline and injecting them with coloured commercial silicon. The subclavian artery casts were then analysed for their morphological patterns. 

The publication notes that “the path through which the blood is delivered to its destination is likely to vary between species and individuals as anatomy and physiology can differ between them”, and that “the branching pattern of vessels in the cardiovascular system is highly variable across mammalian species”. It also states that “the relationship between the structure [of differences in branching patterns] and function is clearly an important issue, as the greyhound vasculature may well have more in common with the cheetah or a sporting horse than other breeds of dogs”. 

This study highlights once again the significant differences that exist both between and within different species, and even specific breeds, bringing into question the use of greyhounds – or any non-human animal species for that matter – as “models” for human anatomy. 

(Pols, S, Henneberg, M & Norris, R (2016). ‘Cranial Arterial Patterning in Greyhounds: Another Case of Internal Intraspecific Variation’, Anat. Histol. Embryol., 45: 161-172.)

The above examples provide a simple snapshot of what is being done to discarded greyhounds around Australia. They are not the result of the public uproar or recent legislation, but rather an example of what little regard is held for these gentle animals and another indiscriminate use that has been occurring for many years. 

“Inside info” 

HRA has also spoken to several sources who wish to remain anonymous. They have confirmed that dogs are provided by trainers as “wastage” from the racing industry,and the conditions they are kept in – at least in some facilities – fall short of the required minimum standards set out in the codes of practice. 

One source in particular has stated: 

"The use of greyhounds in research is made so easy by several factors. First, a pressure on research staff at institutions to gain the recognition and prestige of producing papers at any cost. Next, a culture of apathy and indifference towards the outcome of the dogs used in research that allows the status quo of euthanasia of dogs at the end of experiments to be by far the most common outcome, with alternative outcomes such as rehoming and rehabilitation only deserving of one sentence in the codes and guidelines for ethical research. And thirdly, a greyhound racing industry that either cannot, or chooses not to keep track of the dogs it produces and disposes of, allowing an unlimited number of dogs to be procured for any purpose with next to no liability or transparency.” 

Such is the fate of loyal animals discarded by an industry that values nothing but the profit these animals can provide.


Around Australia, approximately eleven thousand dogs are used in research and teaching every year. In addition to greyhounds, beagles are often used because of their friendly, docile temperaments.  Unfortunately the fate of the vast majority of these animals is rarely as fortunate as Mickey’s.  

Is this how we repay the devotion and loyalty of “Man’s Best Friend”? Dogs deserve better! 

For more info : Victoria lab experiments kill 100 dogs for drug and dental research - The Age 

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