Using animals for experiments: As it’s discovered that greyhounds are being used for science experiments in Melbourne, the CEO of Humane Research Australia explains how prevalent animal testing is in this country.
Australian scientific laboratories are experimenting on thousands of dogs and killing many afterwards. The University of Melbourne’s dental school is one group using live dogs for surgical experiments, including for research papers published this year.
For one experiment, six healthy greyhounds were given dental implants under general anaesthetic and kept alive for three months before being euthanised by lethal injection. Their jaws were then removed for inspection.
In another tooth implant experiment at the school, four greyhounds underwent a series of operations to put screws in their skulls and electrodes into their brains. It is not known if they were later killed, but researchers reported they experienced discomfort for five days and one dog developed a large swelling of clotted blood from moving too much.
They were some of nearly 6,000 dogs used in experiments each year (more than 1,800 in Victoria) that range from major surgery ending in death to simple observation, according to figures compiled from government departments in four states.
At least 100 of those used in Victorian research were killed during or after testing, according to Agriculture Victoria.
The dogs are mostly ex-racing greyhounds and beagles that a NSW breeder supplies specially for laboratory testing (beagles are known to be docile). Monash University used such beagles in recent pharmaceutical experiments to test the viability of an arthritis drug.
Humane Research Australia has criticised the dental school in particular for abusing dogs for the sake of cosmetic surgery.
Chief executive officer Helen Marston said she was shocked that the university’s animal ethics committee approved the dental implant research.
Helen Marston of Humane Research Australia says she is shocked that dogs have been used for dental research. (Photo: Joe Armao)
“The research was certainly not life-saving, as it was simply for human vanity,” Ms Marston said. “The papers do not mention where the dogs were sourced from, but we expect that they are ‘wastage’ from the racing industry.” She said the anatomy of a dog’s mouth is quite different from that of a human.
AMelbourneUniversityspokesman said the dogs were provided to the university, but did not say by whom. He said it usually looked to re-home dogs once testing was over but, in some instances, it was necessary to kill them to finish the research. Veterinarians monitored and cared for them throughout.
He said the research was to better understand the healing process following major dental surgery.
The results have the potential to enhance patient care and simplify treatment for patients undergoing such procedures.
A global association for implant dentistry called the International Team for Implantology, based in Basel, Switzerland, paid for the Melbourne research. The association declined to say how much it granted, but it pays out about $2.8 million a year to researchers to further the field.
Authorities in Queensland and NSW conducted inquiries into greyhound racing this year after Four Corners revealed evidence of widespread animal cruelty including live baiting. The NSW inquiry has adjourned, with new hearings expected next year. – Marika Dobbin