With chants and homemade signs, about 30 picketers stood across from the 15th Street entrance to Georgia Regents University on Friday and protested the College of Dental Medicine’s use of animals for scientific research.
Waving at the passing traffic, the protesters – a handful with pet dogs in tow – held signs that read “Humanity: not just for humans” and “Dogs should not die for dentures.”
The protest was sparked by a Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation released Wednesday that showed GRU had purchased six dogs for dental implant experiments from a dealer repeatedly cited by the federal government. The dealer is under investigation for violating the Animal Welfare Act. The investigation also showed GRU might have not gotten proper approval for the experiments, required by law.
Several protesters said they understand that some animal testing is necessary for medical advancements, but they believe GRU’s experiment appears to have been for cosmetic purposes – not to save lives.
“This isn’t vital testing; this isn’t neurology testing; this isn’t anything that will prevent death for patients; this is pure vanity,” said Dennis Briatico, who took Jack, his 14-year-old terrier rescue, to the protest on the corner of 15th Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard. “They’re trying to make their product better than the competitor, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
The protest was organized by the local group Helping Animal Rights Through Education. Briatico is organizing a second protest for Dec. 7, with participation being rallied through Facebook. Briatico said protesters will meet at 11th and Broad streets at 10 a.m. and march to the GRU dental school.
Evan Brown, 20, said he had an issue with the university’s conducting an experiment that is painful for the animals when there are already Food and Drug Administration-approved products on the market. If the university did not have the diligence to make sure their animal dealer was clean, Brown said, he doubted it would take the time to monitor pain management.
“Legal or not, it shouldn’t be done,” said Brown, with his pit bull terrier Scout by his side.
In a response to the controversy, GRU e-mailed a universitywide memo Friday stating that an undercover video released with the investigation “misrepresents the realities of scientific studies conducted at GRU.”
It also said the school recognizes its ethical and legal responsibility towards animals involved in research.
“GRU will continue to strive to provide the most humane treatment of animals in our care,” the memo stated.
At the protest, the group waved to passing cars for about an hour and a half and shouted pleas to end animal testing.
“Shame on you, GRU!” they chanted. “Let the dogs go! Let the dogs go!”
Breeda O’Mahoney, a member of the animal-protection group, said she believes there is no reason for animal testing with so many alternatives and advances in medicine today.
She said she hopes the protest will shed light on suffering and potentially persuade GRU to stop the practice altogether. O’Mahoney waved at cars and raised a sign with words that let people know why:
“Unseen they suffer, unheard they cry, in agony they linger, in loneliness they die.”