Protesters walk to end Georgia Regents University's dental experiments on dogs

 Nearly 100 protesters and their four-legged friends braved the wet weather Saturday to send a message to Georgia Regents University.

They want the university to stop using dogs for unnecessary dental experiments and be more transparent with the community.

Bearing slogans such as “Shame On You, GRU,” and “Dis-GRU-ntled,” the protesters walked from the Augusta Ju­dicial Center to the GRU Col­lege of Dental Medicine to raise awareness about what they believe are the university’s questionable experimentation practices. Kath­leen Conlee, the vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society, told protesters that the Humane Society found the experimentation practices were neither critical nor necessary.

The Humane Society launched an undercover investigation earlier this year and found that dogs had teeth removed, implants installed and were euthanized after experimentation.

The investigation also found that the animals were purchased from a random-source Class B dealer who has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agri­cul­ture and is under investigation for violating the Animal Welfare Act. Such dealers obtain animals from random sources, such as flea markets, free-to-good-home ads or auctions.

“These dogs lived in fear and ultimately lost their life for a small piece of their jawbone,” Conlee said. “It does appear that a lot of the work is for financial reasons.”

Conlee read to the crowd a personal message from actress Kim Basinger, who narrated a Humane Society video about the investigation and its findings.

“In order to make something right, you have to know what is wrong,” Conlee read. “This is very, very wrong. Knowing innocent animals are suffering unfathomable cruelty and ending their lives in labs, it is barbaric, primitive and inhumane, to say the least. Thank you for all you are doing to help stop this ongoing crime against helpless and voiceless animals.”

Amanda Harrell, who helped organize the event with Augusta resident Dennis Briatico, said her concern extends to the students who work with the animals.

“You don’t know where these dogs came from. They could have had a disease or some type of ailment,” she said. “They’re putting their own students at risk. That’s wrong.”

Briatico said he was so disgusted when he learned of the investigation’s findings that he immediately turned to social media to organize the walk.

He said another walk will be staged early next year if nothing has changed.

“This is my personal message to you, GRU. Look around you. Augusta cares about its animals. You should have been expecting us,” he said.

 

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University response

Students, faculty and staff of Georgia Regents University received an e-mail last week defending the experiments, saying they are not frivolous nor unnecessary.

Researchers were testing an antimicrobial coating that would prevent dangerous infections in the gums and bones that could enter the bloodstream and infect heart valves and other organs. The university said the U.S. Department of Agriculture found no incidents of non-compliance, that their animals are obtained only from vendors licensed and inspected by the USDA, and that all research is approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

“GRU is committed to research that will improve patient lives. Countless medical breakthroughs – from antibiotics to blood transfusions to vaccinations and chemotherapy – were developed with the help of laboratory animals,” the e-mail said. “We do everything possible to reduce the number of animals used in research and are committed to replacing animals with other scientific models whenever possible. For the foreseeable future, however, animal research remains a critical component of developing safer dental implants and, ultimately, new cures.”