Sacramento moves to widen dog blood supply from exclusively captive donors
When Fluffy and Fido need surgery or transfusions, their humans have other worries besides where the blood comes from.
But state lawmakers are doing the worrying for them, trying to sort out exactly which canines should be allowed to donate blood and which shouldn’t.
Currently, most blood products used in veterinary medicine come from California, where dueling doggie blood bank bills have emerged to confront “closed colonies,” where animals are kept confined and bled at regular intervals before they are put up for adoption.
Many of those animals are greyhounds who’ve spent arduous years racing. They’re either “donors” or “blood slaves,” depending on one’s point of view, and the sale of their blood products is a multimillion-dollar industry that affects pet welfare nationwide.
The dueling bills in Sacramento present two options: evolution or revolution.
Assembly Bill 366, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would outlaw closed-colony blood banks in California by 2022 and instead allow voluntary, community-based donations from dogs that live at home with their humans.
“Hundreds of greyhounds are in involuntary servitude, caged for months or even years, their blood routinely harvested,” Bloom said at a news conference in March. “That’s another form of cruelty, in my opinion.
“If this were the only way to collect and donate blood from dogs, we might find ourselves not liking it, but having to accept it. But the fact of the matter is, there is a better way. That’s what AB 366 is about — reforming the industry to best practices.”
Bloom’s bill is championed by the Rescue + Freedom Project in Los Angeles and strongly supported by scores of veterinarians, including professors at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
But it’s also opposed by the California Veterinary Medical Association, which fears it’s too much too soon and could strangle the blood supply, harming sick and injured animals. Twice, hearings on the bill have been postponed.
Like Bloom’s bill, Senate Bill 202 by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, would allow voluntary, community-based donations from dogs that live at home with their humans.
But unlike Bloom’s bill, it would not address the closed-colony question just yet. It’s championed by Social Compassion in Legislation in Laguna Beach, which believes it is wise to get the volunteer system worked out before outlawing closed colonies.
“California faces a shortage of animal blood products and we have an opportunity today to ensure a more robust supply of blood without housing more animals in traditional animal blood donations facilities,” Wilk said in a prepared statement.
“Human blood donors go home to their families after donating; animal donors should be treated the same way. California is woefully behind the rest of the nation on this matter, which is why I introduced the Doggy Donor Bill.”
SB 202 also would require commercial blood banks to include blood-borne pathogen testing for all canine and feline blood donors, require vets to oversee the production of blood products, and open inspection records to public scrutiny. Right now, animal blood bank records are exempt from the California Public Records Act.
The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Agriculture on April 2 and has moved on to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“My heart goes out to the families who have had an animal in need of blood when none was available,” Wilk said in his statement. “With the Doggy Donor Bill, the supply of available blood will increase, it will continue to be done in a safe and regulated environment, AND our donor animals will get to go home to their own loving human families at the end of the day.”
California has just two commercial animal blood banks — the for-profit Animal Blood Resources International, which has offices in Northern California and Michigan, and the nonprofit Hemopet in Garden Grove, which has drawn the ire of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Together, they provide the overwhelming majority of the nation’s animal blood supply, according to company documents. Each organization has said that its donor animals are happy, healthy, well-cared for and are adopted to good homes when their service is done.
Hemopet CEO Jean Dodds has said California requires licensed, closed-colony commercial animal blood banks because they “provide a medically superior and safer blood supply,” and that the safety and efficacy of using volunteer donors has been oversimplified.
Scott Horner, CEO and owner of Animal Blood Resources International, said he’s not opposed to community programs as long as they adhere to strong safety and donor-care regulations.