(NBC NEWS) -- A grim undercover video showing researchers performing "painful ...unnecessary" dental implants on dogs has landed a small Georgiauniversity at the center of an intensifying debate over medical researchinvolving live animals.
The video, which the Humane Society of the United States saidwas taken by an unidentified investigator, shows dogs under anesthesiahaving teeth pulled out and dental implants inserted at Georgia RegentsUniversity in Augusta. Eventually, the animals were euthanized andsections of their jaws removed for study.
Actress Kim Basingernarrates as a thin dog named "Shy Guy" shivers after surgery. Later itshow euthanized dogs, their necks flayed open during autopsy, assections of their jaws are removed.
Since it was posted on YouTube on Nov. 20, the video has been viewedmore than 35,000 times and stirred controversy on the 9,000-studentcampus. It prompted a protest last weekacross the street from the university, and a second is planned for Dec.7. One first-year biology student who aspires to be a veterinarystudent told the Aiken Standard that she intends to transfer to another school after seeing what was going on there.
"Whatkind of veterinarian would I be if I stuck at a school that waspotentially abusing animals? That goes against everything I'm for,"Hannah Kellems told the newspaper.
The Humane Society allegesthat the experiments on the six animals were "painful" and"unnecessary," and filedcomplaints with the U.S. Department ofAgriculture and the National Institutes of Health's Office of LaboratoryAnimal Welfare.It also accused the university of providing inadequatecare during the research and of procuring the dogs from a dealer facing aUSDA complaint that he improperly acquired animals.
"Dogs don'tneed to die for frivolous dental experiments," said Wayne Pacelle,president and CEO of the society. "It's painful to watch these forlorndogs sacrificed for these questionable purposes."
The video below claims to show the suffering and death of dogs used in the research. Warning: This video may be disturbing to some viewers.
Kathleen Conlee, the society's vice president of animal researchissues, said that the dental implant research, while legal, could havebeen accomplished without the use of dogs.
"There's no justification there," she said. "The condition is not life-threatening in humans."
The university strongly denies the charges.
"Theallegation that this research is strictly cosmetic, silly, or frivolouscould not be further from the truth," Mark Hamrick, the university'ssenior vice president for research, wrote in an email to NBC News. "Inthis study, researchers were testing an antimicrobial coating that couldhelp prevent dangerous infections in the gums and bones of the mouth."
GeorgiaRegents University obtained 186 dogs from animal dealer Kenneth H.Schroeder from 2005 to 2012, the Humane Society said, citing documentsit obtained from the university and the USDA. The six used in the dentalimplant research arrived in November 2012. The surgeries were conductedin March, and the dogs were euthanized in May, according to thedocuments.
In the statement last week, the university said that the surgeries were performed under anesthesia and that pain control was provided afterward.
The USDA in September filed a complaint against Schroeder,alleging he improperly obtained dogs, impeded efforts to inspect hisoperation in Wells, Minn., and provided substandard care for dogs there.NBC News could not reach Schroeder on Tuesday or Wednesday. There areno allegations that the dogs that Georgia Regents bought were improperlyobtained.
He is one of only six random-source Class B animal dealersleft in the U.S., down from 11 in 2009. They typically acquire animalsfrom breeders, shelters, auctions and "bunchers," who collect animalsfrom random sources. The Humane Society alleges that such dealers oftenget animals through unscrupulous means or without proper certification.
"We're seeing pets ending up in laboratories," Conlee said.
Someinstitutions avoid these dealers because of such issues. "We do notdeal with Class B dealers, period," said Charlie Powell, publicinformation officer for the College of Veterinary Medicine at WashingtonState University in Pullman, Wash.
While Georgia Regents isfeeling the wrath of pet lovers and animal activists, it is a smallplayer in the use of dogs in medical research.
Pharmaceutical andbiomedical companies use many more dogs in experiments, according toUSDA data. New Jersey-based Covance used more than 5,000 dogs inresearch at its facilities in each of the 2011 and 2012 reporting years.In 2012, more than 1,100 of those dogs fell into "Column D" -- thecategory that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Servicedefines as "experiments ... involving accompanying pain or distress to theanimals and for which appropriate anesthetic, analgesic, ortranquilizing drugs were used."
But universities and collegesacross the country also use dogs in research. For instance, CentralCarolina Community College reported using 50 dogs in its programs in2012 - more than twice as many as the 22 that Georgia Regents Universityused. In 2011, Duke University reported using 1,158 in its programs,including 101 in "Column D." Last year, Duke's use of dogs fell to 213,according to USDA records.
But Globe University, a privateinstitution based in Minneapolis that offers veterinary and health caredegrees, reported an increase in its use of dogs over the past fouryears, from 355 in 2009 to 1,371 in 2013, according to numbers on filewith the USDA.
Conlee, of the Humane Society, cautioned that suchnumbers might include animals that were spayed or neutered for localshelters or individuals as part of training programs.
She allowed that some research using animals might be necessary - for now.
"Thereis some life-saving research out there. We accept that it's happeningtoday," she said. "We urge that we move away from using animals inresearch."
Helen Diggs, director of laboratory animal resources atOregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., said any university hasrigorous protocols for approving animal research. "Before we say yea ornay about a specific project, we want to be sure that we've reallythought about this, that this is the right species to be using," shesaid.
And Powell said that the use of dogs is a necessity inresearch for products or procedures to benefit dogs. Still, he said, heunderstands the reaction to the video taken at Georgia RegentsUniversity.
"You can imagine pain in your mouth, and you imagine a nice fuzzy dog, and it becomes pretty repulsive," he said.