Animal rights protesters - and one beagle - picketed the SkyCity convention centre yesterday as animal testing scientist Allen Goldenthal spoke inside the venue about his work.
Picketers from Animal Freedom Aotearoa are unhappy that Dr Goldenthal's company tests medicines on beagles, saying the dogs are kept in unsanitary conditions and become frightened when they are dosed or injected with drugs.
The dogs are bred for testing and are sometimes put down to enable an autopsy at the end of the trial.
Dr Goldenthal, whose Manawatu and Hastings facilities carry out animal testing for pharmaceuticals, dog food and pet medicine companies, said animals were kept healthy in a "kennel-type" environment.
He used about 20 animals a year for testing.
Beagles were used only in the very final stages of an experiment, when products were very close to being deemed safe for people, he said.
The dogs were never allowed to suffer, but sometimes they had to be put down so their tissue could be examined.
He said computer models and tests on rodents could not always guarantee a product was safe for people.
"Dogs are emotive because they are part of our family, but so are our children," he said, referring to tests of children's medicines.
Dr Goldenthal said dogs shared 86 per cent of their genes with people. Beagles were used because there was 70 years of research on how they reacted to medicines.
He said he tried to find homes for all of the dogs not put down at the end of a trial, and had adopted some of the animals himself.By Eloise Gibson Email Eloise