ALLEGATIONS made by a former employee about ill-treatment of dogs on a farm in Wyton where beagles are bred for medical research were shown to be baseless, the firm said yesterday (Tuesday).

The Sunday Times of July 10 quoted Russell Trigg, 30, who had worked at Harlan Laboratories' facility in Sawtry Way as an animal care technician as complaining that dogs were confined in small pens, had little exercise or intimate human contact, and were sometimes mis-treated.

Companies such as Harlan - and Huntingdon Life Sciences at Woolley - are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they play a vital part in the testing of life-saving new medicines, which must by law be tested on animals before humans can take them.

On the other, they are the implacable targets of animal rights extremists who, until HLS was granted various injunctions by the High Court, routinely attacked premises, property and sometimes employees of the company and its suppliers.

So, when contacted by the Sunday Times, Harlan had a choice: stay under the radar and let the allegations develop their own momentum or invite the paper to see for itself. The latter choice seems so far to have paid off.

A company spokesman said: "The impetus for the article was some disturbing and untrue allegations that were made to The Sunday Times by a former Harlan employee who trained with us in our Wyton facility for a very short time, over a year ago.

"The reporter took us up on our invitation to visit Wyton and to see for himself the high standards of care that we assure for our animals.

"As he toured the facility and met many of our staff personally, he saw a committed workforce - devoted to the care of our animals - acquitting themselves professionally and compassionately.

"He was able to observe groups of active dogs with wagging tails, healthy puppies, clean housing, multiple play areas and enrichments for the animals, fresh and healthy food … in short, the exact opposite of what he had been told."

Harlan UK's operations director, who asked not to be identified because of the animal rights sensitivity, said the reaction from the scientific community and from clients since publication of the report had been "very supportive" of Harlan.

The company added: "We are extremely proud of each and every one of our Harlan employees - particularly those at our Wyton site - who played a role in helping us demonstrate to The Sunday Times our ongoing commitment for meeting our animal welfare obligations. We were professional, appropriately transparent, and respectful in all of our interactions and exchanges with The Sunday Times in advance of their article.

"We will continue to work with The Sunday Times and others to ensure that the facts of the important work that is done by Harlan and others in our industry - and how that work is done with the highest standards of quality and care - are clearly and accurately represented.

"We cannot control what others will say about the work that we do. But we can control what we do, and how we do it. We will continue to set our standards high, and will appropriately tell of and stand behind our important work with the fullest confidence."