Dogs in France are being sold to animal testing labs, after the nation's government introduced a plan allowing breeders to sell "excess stock" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Muriel Arnal, founding president of France's One Voice, an organisation that "denounces animal exploitation", says France is the number one country in Europe that sends dogs to laboratories for experiments.

The group has started a petition renouncing the practice, Arnal said, and has filed a complaint with the French high court to bring the measure, which One Voice says was adopted "on the quiet during the lockdown", to an end.

Breeders selling "excess stock" of dogs to labs for experimental purposes is "allowed under Decree number 2020-27 of 17th March 2020, which amends the regulations on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, One Voice said.

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"The relaxation of these criteria benefits non-specialist suppliers and will give rise to a new system of shameful abuse and, eventually, make organised massacre legal," according to the group.

The group said all breeds were "destined for the scalpel".

"The abuse inflicted on the dogs is indescribable," they said, of how dogs are treated at the testing labs.

"Medication is tested on them, they are injected with viruses, they are poisoned so that the symptoms and resultant damage can be studied, their organs are 'examined', they are made ill or mad in the name of science and genetic experiments are carried out on them, all in prison-like conditions."

"Those dogs that do not die by violence or in protracted agony are killed in order to be sold as 'spare parts'," One Voice said.

"This disgusting torture must cease."