To maintain access to federal research funding, Georgia Regents University officials said Monday that they will no longer purchase dogs from controversial Class B dealers, who pick animals from shelters or free-to-good-home ads and sell them to laboratories.
The National Institutes of Health began a plan to phase out the practice in 2011 and announced in December that it would not fund research involving dogs from Class B dealers beginning Oct. 1.
The NIH issued a similar rule for cats beginning October 2012 and said labs must obtain these animals from other legal sources, such as Class A dealers that breed animals specifically for research or animals participating in veterinary clinical trials.
GRU’s announcement comes almost two months after the Humane Society of the United States published findings from an undercover investigation into dental implant experiments on dogs at the school. The Humane Society showed GRU had for years purchased dogs from a Class B dealer who has multiple federal citations and is under investigation for allegations of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Humane Society officials called for the university to stop buying from Class B dealers and to end “frivolous” and “cosmetic” dental implant experiments.
Kathleen Conlee, the organization’s vice president of animal research issues, said Monday that she was happy about the new policy but that more aggressive change is needed.
The experiments witnessed by the Humane Society last year were privately funded and would not have been affected by the NIH rule. Conlee said she wants the university to discontinue the use of Class B dealers no matter the funding source.
“It’s a good step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of things we’re trying to see change,” she said. “We
want the dental experiments to end.”
Since at least 2010, researchers have been using dogs to develop an antimicrobial coating that would prevent infection from colonizing dental implants.
University officials have vehemently defended the research as an effort to solve a serious medical issue.
In the experiments witnessed by the Humane Society, six dogs had their teeth removed and dental implants surgically placed in their mouths. They were euthanized eight weeks later so their jaw bones could be studied.
Dogs are used because their jaw size and teeth allow for a better comparison to humans, and the type of disease and bone loss they experience is similar to what humans would experience, university officials said.
According to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, GRU most recently purchased four dogs in October from Class B dealer Kenneth Schroeder, who is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On Monday, Conlee urged GRU to relinquish these four dogs to local rescues “so they can be placed in loving homes.”
Although GRU officials have not said they will end dental experiments on dogs, a local movement has budded from the issues revealed by the Humane Society.
The organization also published an investigation that showed about 50 primates were being denied social housing and that many showed signs of severe psychological distress from a lack of enrichment.
Dennis Briatico, 36, of North Augusta, helped organize a Dec. 7 march of about 100 protesters from the Augusta Judicial Center to the GRU College of Dental Medicine to demand the school end the experiments.
He is planning another rally for Feb. 15 at Augusta Common to raise awareness about animal testing at GRU and to promote animal rescue and adoption.
He said while there is still much work to be done, the testing at GRU has sparked more awareness about animal welfare in the community.
“There’s no number I can put on it, but the protest has saved a lot of animals,” he said. “It has spread awareness about animal adoption, and it caused animal lovers in the community to come together and foster shelter dogs. It has really all been worth it.”