published Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Protesters accuse Georgia Regents University of animal cruelty for using dogs to test dental implants

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Nearly 100 demonstrators and their dogs gathered in Augusta on Saturday to protest Georgia Regents University's use of dogs to test human dental implants.

The Augusta Chronicle reported that protesters walked from the Augusta Judicial Center to the university's College of Dental Medicine to call for the school to change its animal research use guidelines.

The Humane Society of the United states said in November that a three-month undercover investigation revealed that dogs being used in the program have had teeth pulled and replaced with implants. The dogs were euthanized afterward and researchers took jaw bone samples from them.

University officials have said GRU's animal use policies are regularly reviewed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the university adheres to local, state and federal guidelines.

Officials have said the school doesn't frequently use dogs for research, and projects involving animal use are reviewed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The IACUC is an entity that must be established by institutions using lab animals for research or instruction.

During the protest, Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society, read a statement from actress Kim Basinger, who also narrated a video produced by the Humane Society outlining the program.

"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," Conlee read from Basinger's statement.

Mark Hamrick, the university's senior vice president for research, has said the tests are neither frivolous nor unnecessary, and are a key component of developing safe and effective dental procedures for humans.

Saturday's protest was organized, in part, by Augusta resident Dennis Briatico, who said he took to social media once he found out about the dental implant program.

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

Briatico added that he'll stage another march in early 2014 if the university doesn't change its animal use procedures.

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