Animal rights

The Gothenburg Labradors: six dogs have been killed to further dental implant research

Dogs previously used and killed for implant research at Gothenburg University. Photo: Mathilda Andersson Nwachukwu/Spionen.

Despite international protests, six Labrador retrievers being used at Gothenburg University in Sweden in an experiment to test how dental implants cause inflammation and bone degradation have been killed to further that research.

The cadavers of the six dogs – Mimosa, Milia, Venus, Lotus, Luna and Zuri – will now be examined to see how the implants have had an impact on their jaw bone structure and gum tissue.

The Swedish animal rights alliance Djurrättsalliansen issued a statement yesterday (Thursday) in which they said that they were giving the news about the dogs’ death “with tremendous sadness”.

Djurrättsalliansen said: “Despite protests around the world against the experiment, and thousands of people’s commitment to saving the dogs’ lives, the University of Gothenburg has now done what we have been fighting against.”

Venus, Mimosa, and Luna were​ killed on February 26 and Zuri, Lotus, and Milia were put down the next day. All the dogs were about two and a half years old. Thirty-five percent of their natural teeth had been removed to make way for implants.

The campaign to save the Gothenburg Labradors gained the support of numerous celebrities, including the British actor Peter Egan and the comedian, actor, writer, producer, director, and singer Ricky Gervais.

“The University of Gothenburg held these six dogs in a laboratory, experimenting on them in the name of research,” Djurrättsalliansen said.

“The dogs never got the life every dog deserves, the right to their own lives and to be a beloved family member. The university had a choice in its hands – to let the dogs live or die – and they chose to take away their entire existence.”

Djurrättsalliansen said it was with a heavy heart that they were informing people that they had not succeeded in saving the lives of the six dogs.

“We all feel grief now; however, we cannot lose hope or forget about the power we all have together. We are fighting for another world – a world where animals are not seen as objects – and the change that must be made is going on here and now.”

“We are many who know about what is happening to animals at the University of Gothenburg now and together we have to ensure that it never happens again. It is essential to show that we never forget.”

Djurrättsalliansen says that dogs have been used in experiments at Gothenburg University since 1996, and at least 206 dogs had been used and killed in those experiments.

“Venus, Milia, Mimosa, Luna, Lotus and Zuri, and all the other dogs who were killed during these experiments can never get back their lives. Our focus now is to stop these experiments from ever happening again.”

Djurrättsalliansen told Changing Times that the global dental implant company Dentsply Sirona had confirmed to the alliance via email that it had been funding the implant research at Gothenburg University.

The alliance also said that the six Labradors came from a farm in Norway where animals are bred specifically for lab research. There is a campaign for the farm, Løken Gård, to be closed down.

Djurrättsalliansen had called on Gothenburg university to stop the implant experiment and let the Labradors live.

“We have always been ready to relocate and rehabilitate the dogs in loving homes. We have repeatedly tried to get to a meeting with the University of Gothenburg, but the university has only shown reluctance to meet us and engage in dialogue about the dogs.”

Djurrättsalliansen says the university also refused to participate in a public debate about the implant research.

More than 84,00 people signed a petition that Djurrättsalliansen submitted to the university. The signatories called for an end to the experiments using dogs and a relocation of the animals.

Another petition on Care2 garnered nearly 64,000 signatures.

Writing on the Gothenburg6 website, campaigners said the Labradors endured many painful procedures and general anaesthetics. “The young dogs have healthy teeth removed, which are then replaced with implants. This is an incredibly painful process.”

Fromer Gothenburg University veterinarian Mark Collins is quoted as saying: “These dogs know exactly what to expect when they enter the surgery room, and they are afraid.”

The Pavlov theory demonstrates that dogs do have memories of experiences and react accordingly, those who tried to save the Labradors point out. These dogs clearly knew that they were about to experience more pain, the campaigners say. In the case of the Gothenburg Labradors, the suffering the animals endured could not be justified, they add.

“Any testing on animals has to be assessed with ethical committees being tasked to weigh up the impact on the animals against the benefit of the experiment.

“The impact is not just the pain and suffering, but the loss of life. With dogs being used for this particular project likely to be put sleep at two years old, they have lost out on a potential of 12-14 years of life.”

Those who have been appealing for the Labradors to be spared point out that, according to Swedish and European animal welfare legislation, animal testing should only be used if the research purpose cannot be achieved by other methods.

Offering implants to people for free for the purposes of research is one option worth investigating, the campaigners say.

“Observing the implants progress with each individual could be examined accurately and regularly with resources such as MRI or CAT scans,” they said.

“Modern technology has advanced so greatly there should be no need to euthanise the dogs in order to be able to examine their bones in great detail.”

Last month, the communications unit at Gothenburg University published a response to media coverage of public concern and stated that the animal experiments were carried out only where no current alternatives existed. The knowledge provided by the research, the university says, can help people to chew and speak.

The statement continued: “The use of dogs in the testing of dental implants is due to their jaw physiognomy, which enables real implants to be used and operations conducted in the same way as on humans.

“Dogs’ saliva and mouth bacteria also resemble people’s. The research underway on dogs at the University of Gothenburg is about how to improve this treatment, and is exploring how the surfaces and shapes of implants should be designed to reduce inflammation risk.”

According to the university researchers, about 15 percent of implant recipients have been shown to suffer from those implants harbouring bacteria that cause inflammation in surrounding tissues.

The university spokespeople say that the tissue examination that is done after the dogs are put down cannot be carried out on living animals.

Those who have been battling to save the Gothenburg Labradors have been expressing their dismay. “I am too shocked to react,” said one campaigner who prefers not to be named. “Tears will flow tomorrow.”

Another campaigner, Mary Cherrington, said: “Words fail me right now. We have given these beautiful Labradors a voice and I hope we can all fight on in their name to prevent other dogs suffering in this way.”

Another simply said she was heartbroken.

Changing Times has contacted both Gothenburg University and Dentsply Sirona for comment, but has not received a reply.

Update 9/7/2019

Changing Times has finally received a response from Gothenburg University. The university confirmed in an email that Dentsply Sirona is funding the dental implant research at the university.

The university stated that the dogs in the dental implant trial “were put down … as part of the trial – in accordance with the ethical permit, which has to be adhered to”.

The decision to put down the labradors was made by the ethical committee, the university said. “The research is not in any way controlled by the patient organisation, government research funding body, university, charity organisation, or company funding the research,” it stated.

The university added: “Animal testing is strictly regulated under Swedish law and EU laws on protection of animals.

“All animal testing must be approved by an animal testing ethics committee, under the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

“The committee comprises researchers, lawyers, and laymen. In general, the implementation of new and animal-free methods in medical research is becoming more common, which is also true for the implant research in Gothenburg.

“The use of cell cultures and biopsies from humans is also increasing. Animal testing is also replaced by refined planning and advanced statistical methods.”