Dog Drug Research Threatened

The temporary closure of an Italian research dog breeder amid allegations of maltreatment could spell the end for the facility.

Aug 2, 2012
Hayley Dunning

The Green Hill facility in Italy, which is owned by US-based Marshall BioResources, breeds beagles for drug research, and is one of the largest research dog suppliers in Europe. It was temporarily closed by an Italian Court last month (July 18) after two animal rights groups alleged maltreatment of the 2,500 beagles in the facility.

Andy Smith, a vice president for Marshall BioResources, which operates several research animal breeding facilities around the world, said Green Hill has been regularly inspected by the Italian authorities without issue, and sees the attention from animal rights groups as a calculated campaign. "In the last year, the rate of inspections [has] been stepped up to almost weekly,” he told Nature. “It seems to be a political campaign to get us closed down.”

Materials were seized from the facility for analysis, and the beagles were put in the care of the animal rights groups, many of which have since been placed in foster homes. To protect against infection, these dogs will not be allowed to return to the facility when the investigation is over, and many believe this threatens the survival of the enterprise.

The beagles were primarily used to test the safety of new drugs, a mandatory requirement for approval. Magda Chlebus, a spokesperson for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, expressed concern that sourcing fewer animals from Europe could harm more than the research industry. She told Nature that it means “a delay in better treatments for patients, and ironically, potentially a negative animal welfare impact should the studies be conducted in countries or regions with less stringent legislation than Europe.”