The University of Melbourne has admitted that its dental school is using live greyhounds for dental surgery studies involving implants before killing the dogs.

A 2014 study involving six greyhounds, which had teeth removed and replaced with implants before being killed “to perform histological and morphometric analysis”, is currently the subject of a Humane Research Australia petition to Melbourne Dental School, where the study, by Ehsan Mellati, Stephen Chen, Helen Davies, Wayne Fitzgerald and Ivan Darby, was performed.

Recently The Age revealed that the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is using live greyhounds for surgery training, despite a wealth of evidence it is unnecessary for the development of surgical skills. The Melbourne Dental School study was aimed at determining the effectiveness of small differences in implant techniques.

According to a University of Melbourne spokesperson, the school continues to use dogs for dental experiments, telling Crikey that last year and this year the school conducted three research projects involving dogs, during which 21 dogs were killed. The school defends operating on and killing dogs, including in the 2014 study. “While involved in the study you cite, the dogs were monitored and cared for by qualified veterinary staff,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, research was conducted 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 in the future. The research required that the dogs jaw be sectioned therefore they had to be humanely euthanised for this to happen.”

The abuse of greyhounds has received considerable coverage since Four Corners exposed horrific abuse by the bulk of greyhound trainers of dogs and other animals in early 2015, although the greyhound racing industry and its supporters within governments have sought to evade accountability ever since.

Melbourne University defends its policy of allowing greyhounds and other animals to be operated on and killed, saying “the university actively seeks techniques that totally or partially replace the use of animals in research wherever possible, and strongly believes that research using animals may only proceed if it is justifiable research for which there is no non-animal alternative”.

The benefits of the 2014 study remain unclear. “There was very little difference in healing outcomes,” was the conclusion of the group that killed six greyhounds after removing their teeth and inserting new ones.