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GOTHENBURG, Sweden: Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have been using dogs in their experiments to test how dental implants might lead to inflammation and skeletal degradation. Djurrättsalliansen, a Swedish animal rights organisation founded in 2005, has expressed great concern over animal use and exploitation for research purposes and has created a petition in the hope of saving the dogs from euthanasia at the end of the study.
As part of the experiment at the University of Gothenburg’s Laboratory of Experimental Biomedicine, six Labradors were sedated and had more than a third of their teeth removed and replaced with dental implants in order to see how implants would integrate into animal tissue, according to the animal rights organisation. Thousands of people have been protesting against animal experimentation at the university, and over 80,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the dogs be immediately released for rehabilitation and re-homing. The petition has received global backing, including British comedian Ricky Gervais and Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan.
On 25 January, the petition was handed over to representatives of the university, who released a public statement regarding testing of dental implants on dogs at the institution. The representatives explained that dogs’ jaw physiognomy, saliva and oral bacteria, being similar to that of humans, enables the testing of dental implants in order to improve the treatment in humans and reduce the risk of inflammation.
According to the university, the dogs are put down to carry out further analyses of tissue and blood and to provide important information for the researchers. One of the examples the university cited is studying the tissue to determine how the implant has healed in situ and how it affects surrounding tissue. Since such experiments on humans are prohibited under Swedish and international law owing to the high risks that they bear, the university justifies testing these on dogs on the grounds that no alternative currently exists to replace animal testing in research.
The European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing was established to advance the replacement, reduction and refinement (Three Rs) of animal procedures. These principles in research involving animals are intended to reduce overall harm and promote alternative methods. Containing the Three Rs, Directive 2010/63/EU governing animal use in the EU, of which Sweden is a member, is one of the most stringent ethical and welfare standards in the world; however, Djurrättsalliansen reported apparent evidence of welfare distress in the dogs and barren environments according to the experiment documentation at the laboratory. The group has said that the university has announced that it intends euthanising the dogs, but the welfare organisation is still hopeful of a positive outcome.