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I dislike the whole business of experiments on animals, unless there's some very good and altogether exceptional reason in a particular case. The thing that gets me is that it's not possible for the animals to understand why they're being called upon to suffer. They don't suffer for their own good or benefit at all, and I often wonder how far it's for anyone's. They're given no choice, and there's no central authority responsible for deciding whether what's done in this case or that is morally justifiable. These experimental animals are just sentient objects; they're useful because they're able to react; sometimes precisely because they're able to feel fear and pain. And they're used as if they were electric light bulbs or boots. What it comes to is that whereas there used to be human and animal slaves, now there are just animal slaves. They have no legal rights, and no choice in the matter.
~ Major Awdry about the animals' experiments at the A.R.S.E. Institution.

Animal Research: Scientific and Experimental, also referred to as A.R.S.E., is a corrupt government research facility. It is a location featured in the 1977 book The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, and its 1982 animated film adaptation of the same name. It is found at Lawson Park within Coniston, England and run by Dr. Boycott. It is where scientists (known as "Whitecoats" from the animals' perspective) perform torturous cosmetic research on animals, including two dogs named Rowf and Snitter.


The Director

The Director is the founder of the Research Station since the government department of the environment had it approved at Lawson Park after a political battle against some of the conservation groups of the national park. He was mentioned several times by Dr. Boycott and made his first appearance in the first chapter of the book after Rowf's water immersion experiment. When Powell eventually begins to feel uncomfortable about their experiments, Boycott suggests on asking the Director and he quits his job as he takes the confined monkey with him.

Dr. J.R. Boycott

A senior researcher and chief scientist of the Research Station. He was in charge of Rowf's experiments and hired Stephen Powell to take the job. He has no sympathy for his experiments, nor his assistant. After Rowf and Snitter escaped, the farmers called him about the sheep-killing dogs, but Boycott denied the fact that they were his dogs and decided to keep it a secret to not worry the public. Throughout the story, he uses a baby monkey for a pointless sensory deprivation experiment with Powell. He has a disgust for emotions, which caused Powell to be somewhat fearful of him.

He was voiced by the late Nigel Hawthorne.

Stephen Powell

Dr. Boycott's assistant who originally took the job to save his sick and dying daughter, Stephanie from a mysterious disease. He actually cares for the animals, but is afraid to show any emotion for that, due to his chief's disgust for emotions, which he claims has no place in science. He tries to retrieve Snitter from the Dawsons, but failed. When he was given a ride back to the Research Station by Digby Driver, he chatted with him about Rowf and Snitter's experiments and about Dr. Goodner's defense work on bubonic plague. This leads to Driver blackmailing Goodner and posting a headline about the dogs carrying the plague. Powell eventually quits his job and takes the confined monkey with him to look for a new career.

He was voiced by the late Bernard Hepton.

Dr. William Goodner

A German scientist who used to work as a Nazi at Buchenwald. His real name is Wilhelm Geutner and he became a naturalized citizen in England after World War II. He does experiments on rats with bubonic plague as a secret bio-weapon for the Ministry of Defense. When the two dogs escaped, they accidentally broke a tank containing the plague. After Powell told Driver about Goodner's defense work, he researches Goodner's history and uses the information to blackmail him to reveal his details of his research. He then posts a headline about the dogs carrying the plague, which causes the public to go into a massive panic mode. However, the dogs are eventually cleared of carrying the plague when Driver redeems himself and helps Snitter's master rescue the dogs from the military.

He was voiced by Brian Stirner.

Harry Tyson

The Research Station's janitor. He used to worked as a sailor, then a farmer, then a road man, before working as a janitor at the Research Station. He is in charge of feeding the dogs as well as Rowf's tank and he actually cares about them. One day, when he feeds the dogs, he doesn't shut Rowf's cage properly. This leads to Rowf and Snitter escaping the facility and killing livestock across the countryside, but he conceals this mistake by shutting the cage. When Driver asks him about Goodner, he directs him to his office, unaware of what he's planning.

He was voiced by the late Warren Mitchell.

Dr. S.W.C. Fortescue

Very little is known about him other than the fact that he was the scientist who was responsible for doing vivisection experiments on Snitter by plaguing his conscious and subconscious mind, which causes him to have hallucinations and suffer from seizures. This also causes Snitter to imagine flies and mice in his head as well as having constant raining in one eye. It is revealed that Snitter's vivisection experiments were the result of Ann Moss lying to them about his aggressive nature.


The A.R.S.E. was set up in Lawson Park after the Under Secretary at the Department of the Environment had it approved, though half the conservation groups opposed to the idea of a research station being set up in a national park.

After his master was hit by a truck, Snitter was sold to the A.R.S.E. by his nasty sister, where they do numerous vivisection experiments on him, causing him to have hallucinations, while they repeatedly drown Rowf to test his endurance. Other dogs who are friends of Rowf and Snitter are mentioned throughout the book, including Kiff, who was sentenced to death by electrocution. Another dog they met was Jimjam, who went blind and died after the whitecoats shoved bitter stuff down his stomach, which caused him to urinate pus and blood.

One day, Tyson forgets to latch Rowf's cage, leaving the two dogs to escape the kennel and explore the lab, while discovering other animals who were having horrible experiments done on them. A monkey startles the two dogs and accidentally break a tank containing rats near Dr. Goodner's office, which would eventually lead to the belief that they are carrying bubonic plague. They climb in an incinerator to find a way out, unaware of what it actually is. As Tyson prepares the incinerator, the two dogs make a narrow escape before the incinerator starts up, allowing them to roam the countryside.

While the two dogs try to find a master, they were forced to kill livestock in order to survive. However, the two dogs are being pursued by farmers and the whitecoats. A local fox known as "The Tod" decides to help them survive in the wild and evade the hunters who want to kill/take them back to the laboratory. The farmers call the research station and ask if they have missing dogs, but they refuse to give out a straight answer and decide to cover their tracks. The Government Department figures that if the media can discredit the A.R.S.E., they can embarrass the Secretary of State and they send Digby Driver to investigate. However, Driver posts a news article about the dogs carrying bubonic plague after blackmailing Dr. Goodner, much to everyone's shock.

In the film, Dr. Boycott hires a bounty hunter named Ackland to take down the dogs. However, he eventually falls to his death after the Tod jumps him, leaving his corpse to be scavenged by the dogs. This results in the army getting involved and the Tod is killed while drying to distract the hunters, so the two dogs can escape to the sea. They are chased by the whitecoats in a helicopter until they reach the shore. Dr. Boycott plans to replace Rowf with another dog for water immersion tests and Powell quits his job as he takes the confined monkey with him to look for a new career. While the two dogs try to escape to the sea, Boycott is called by the Under Secretary and is shocked as he overhears about suspending work. He also planned on writing a book about the prevention of animal cruelty, which may lead to the facility getting shut down.


  • Dogs with various horrible experiments.
    • Rowf: Drowned for endurance testing.
    • Snitter: Vivisectional experiments by plaguing his conscious and subconscious mind together.
    • Kiff: Sentenced to death by cumulative electrocution.
    • Clusker: Experimented with a spray that was supposed to be fatal to fleas before dying.
    • Brot: Put to sleep and blinded.
    • Jimjam: Received bitter stuff in his stomach, causing him to urinate pus and blood before dying.
    • Licker: Brutally beaten in a mental harness.
    • Lodo: Forced to smoke cigarettes.
    • Zigger: Forced to work on a treadmill before tiring out.
    • Unnamed Pekingese: Cured and sickened multiple times.
    • Unnamed Brown Retriever: Throat surgery.
    • Unnamed Mongrel Whippet: Having one of its legs amputated.
    • Unnamed Beagles: Forced to smoke cigarettes for days before death as well as radiation.
  • Monkeys with electrodes in their heads for cranial research as well as being paralyzed with injections.
  • A monkey confined in a metal cylinder and left in utter isolation and sensory deprivation for 42 days.
  • Rabbits having hairspray dripped in their eyes to see how long it takes them to go blind.
  • Rats given cancer before getting dissected.
  • A rat experimented in a skinner box.
  • Cats forced to wear hoods covering their eyes and ears.
  • Guinea pigs with amputated limbs and receiving tobacco tar condensates.
  • Homing pigeons with damaged sensory organs and brains.
  • Mice injected with the urine of potentially pregnant women.
  • Coatis and mongooses injected with snake venom.
  • Octopuses receiving electric shocks to examine their capacity for remembering previous shocks.
  • Dogfish having their brains damaged and their eyes removed.
  • Sheep tested with high-velocity bullet wounds.
  • Goats tested with jagged shrapnel.


Do you think you're the only one who hates this DAMN PLACE!?
~ Rowf about the A.R.S.E. institution.
Damn this place. Damn the whitecoats. Damn you all!
~ Snitter about the A.R.S.E. institution.





  • The A.R.S.E. is a pun on the word "arse", which is a British slang for buttocks.
  • In the book, the facility was named "Animal Research: Surgical and Experimental".
  • It was explained by the author Richard Adams that the Lake District has no research labs and that no research lab would do those horrible experiments.
  • At one point in the book, Snitter reminisces a flashback, where a dog by the name of Licker informed them that the whitecoats sometimes beat dogs to death after restraining them in mental harnesses.
  • Snitter's shout to the vulture "I hope you make sure we're properly dead before you start, old rip-beak!" is sampled in the industrial band Skinny Puppy's song/single "Testure". Both the song, whose name combines "test" and "torture", and music video equates medical experimentation on live animals as torture.
  • Ann Moss is the one who is responsible for Snitter's brain surgery, due to her claims that he had behavioral problems.
  • In the film, before escaping the incinerator, Snitter says "Damn this place. Damn the whitecoats. Damn you all!". However, in the book, he says "Damn the whitecoats! Damn Annie, damn the policeman and the white bell-car! Damn you all, damn you! You've killed my master!".
  • The rabbits in the lab bear a resemblance to the rabbits from the 1978 movie Watership Down, which is another film directed by Martin Rosen and based on a book by Richard Adams.