GRU protesters promise to keep fighting after march

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News 12 at 6 O'clock / Sunday, December 8, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) - The crowds chant "Shame on you, GRU."

It was the message from many in front of GRU Saturday. The voices aimed toward GRU.

"We are the voice for the voiceless and we are not going to be stopped," said Amanda Harrell.

She was a protestor and more importantly a mother to her four-legged friend.

"Stop the animal abuse, stop the cruelty, stop the class B dealers," she said.

Just one day after they marched, organizer Dennis Briatico has already got plans for the future.

"I think it was definitely enough people to send a statement to GRU," he said. "If the administration at GRU isn't willing to change how they handle animal wellfare, then they'll see us again."

Since the video showing alleged mistreatment of animals in a GRU labsurfaced, animal shelters and rescue groups have reported higher adoption numbers

"This protest has changed how animal wellfare is dealt with in Augusta forever," Briatico said.

However, an article written today by GRU researchers says, "Research conducted at GRU is humane, responsible and highly regulated." They go on to say the "Humane Society has alleged fault where there is none."

Words that Briatico says aren't true.

"When you know in your heart that you're on the side of right, all you can do is follow it and that's all we're doing is following our hearts," he said.

Those hearts led them to GRU's front step, and briatico promises the fight won't stop.

"Yesterdays protest has turned into a movement," he said.

Briatico says he's not stopping the fight even though the protest is over.

Below is the full article from GRU Drs. Christopher Cutler and Mark Hamrick:

As both dog lovers and researchers we want to respond to the misrepresentations about research at Georgia Regents University raised by the Humane Society of the United States.

As a university, we’re committed to research that improves lives. A recent video released by the HSUS attempted to discredit research into a new antimicrobial coating for dental implants that could help prevent dangerous infections in the gums and bones of the mouth. While we were not directly involved in the research, we are nonetheless familiar with the details of the study due to our roles at GRU. We have seen firsthand that the research conducted at GRU is humane, responsible, and highly regulated.

The allegation that dental implant research at GRU is strictly cosmetic, silly, or frivolous could not be further from the truth. Infections caused by failed implants are a focus of research in recent years due to the ability of bacteria to get into the bloodstream and infect heart valves and other organs. This problem is not unique to dental implants, but also occurs with prostheses that are used to replace body parts lost to cancer and trauma. Early detection and prevention are key, but it’s only through research studies such as these that we can improve the surface of the implants.

Our research is guided by what’s known as the “Three Rs,” that is, refinement, reduction, and replacement. As a university, we’re committed to refining procedures to minimize stress and maximize comfort for laboratory animals. We’re committed to reducing the number of animals used in research. And we’re committed to developing scientific models as alternatives to animal research whenever possible.

The university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee ensures that these principals are honored. The committee of faculty, administration, and community members approved the research protocol for the study documented by the HSUS. The suggestion that the research was conducted without proper approval is false. Any animal research at GRU without IACUC approval would be a violation of GRU policy and federal law.

In this instance, the dental implant protocol was approved July 15, 2010 and renewed July 13, 2013. The experiments in February-May of this year were conducted under the protocol approved in 2010. GRU provided the most up-to-date information to the HSUS upon request in late July. The group‘s claims appear to be incorrectly based off the renewal from July 2013 instead of the original protocol from 2010.

Simply put, the HSUS has alleged fault where there is none. GRU’s protocols and animal-use facilities are regularly reviewed and inspected by the USDA, and the USDA has found no incidents of non-compliance. Dogs are used infrequently in research conducted at the university. In this and every study at GRU, they are only obtained from vendors licensed and inspected by the USDA.

At GRU, researchers are making strides toward better medical devices and treatments. Countless medical breakthroughs – from antibiotics to blood transfusions to vaccinations and chemotherapy – were developed with the help of laboratory animals. Animal research is, for the foreseeable future, a critical component of developing safer dental implants and, ultimately, new cures.

(The writers are interim associate dean for research in the GRU College of Dental Medicine and senior vice president for research at GRU, respectively.)