By W. Jean Dodds, DVM; Founder of Hemopet
Falsehoods and Misleading Rhetoric
After PETA broadcasted unfounded information about Hemopet and animal blood bank services, the vocal public and a few veterinary colleagues assumed the allegations to be true without checking or requesting the truth. A local emergency clinic veterinarian has even started a petition against blood banks holding dogs “captive”. This has resulted in an unfounded stream of misinformation.
The real facts are summarized below:
- Hemopet, a California-licensed and annually inspected canine blood bank, is a federal and state non-profit charity, operating since 1991.
- Hemopet has a closed colony facility that houses greyhounds unsuitable for the racing industry; they have the true “universal” canine blood type DEA 4, so their blood can be given to any dog regardless of his/her blood type. All the donors are neutered and spayed, and are screened beforehand for any known infectious diseases transmissible by blood.
- Hemopet blood donors are maintained in an exemplary facility with large kennel runs and an acre of grounds, socialized in groups of up to 10, and exercised by staff and volunteers 5 times daily. After donating half-sized units of blood 2-3 times a month depending upon their weight for up to a year, the dogs are adopted by families as companions.
- In California, commercial animal blood banks are regulated by 2 laws and must be kept as closed donor facilities to ensure the safety and efficacy of their blood component services. There is no other way.
- Some opponents would prefer the use of community “volunteer” donors.
- Others prefer in-house veterinary clinic or staff pets to serve as donors.
- However, there are serious clinical and scientific safety issues with these other options:
- Canine donors animal must be blood type compatible and ideally of so-called “universal” donor type = DEA 4
- All donors must be screened beforehand for any infectious diseases transmissible by blood, and preferably to ensure safety, be re-screened each time they donate. Healthy donors can still carry infectious diseases that could compromise the health of ill recipients. This re-screening at each donation is not performed on community and in-clinic blood donors, as it would delay the release of the collected units by several days or longer.
The “Captive” Fallacy
The word “captive” used by opponents of closed-colony animal blood banks is inappropriate and fallacious. Captive means confinement, which applies to all companion animals kept as pets and for sport, working or security reasons. Dogs, cats, birds, horses, farm and exotic species are all confined in their homes, boarding facilities, farms, or work places while the “owners”, caregivers and farm staff are at work or elsewhere. Any fenced in protective area confines animals for safety and care. Thus, to call closed-colony blood banks as captive sends negative implications. Any animal blood donor is captive. Even community donor, in-clinic and vet staff donors are also confined. Further, none of these blood donors “volunteer” as only their guardians can provide informed consent. Hemopet actually operates in a better manner than any other option: Our dogs are cared for by over 40 persons and additional volunteers who directly and regularly walk and play with them.
Lastly, there is a national shortage of safe and blood-type compatible blood for companion and working animals. If not for Hemopet’s animal blood bank services, countless animal patients in need of transfusions will suffer and some will die.