When a person has a serious injury, surgery, or blood disorder, a blood transfusion can sometimes save the patient’s health or life. The same is true for animals. So just like there are blood banks for people, there are blood banks for animals. But the first non-profit canine blood bank in the United States has come under fire. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims Southern California’s Hemopet mistreats animals.
Hemopet keeps 200 greyhounds on site. Greyhounds are uniquely suited to be blood donors. First, there are many available. Dozens of greyhounds annually would be euthanized after being retired from the dog racing industry. Hemopet accepts those healthy dogs, offering an alternative to euthanization. Second, greyhounds are universal canine donors. Like a human with O negative blood—which can be transfused to a person of any blood type—greyhound blood is compatible with every dog.
Hemopet says the dogs are cared for. They are fed and have regular walks and outdoor play time at Hemopet’s campus in Orange County. They receive medical care and spaying or neutering. Each greyhound participates in a state-regulated blood donor program for about 10 months. After that, the dogs are placed in well-screened homes.
Veterinary experts agree that there is a demand for canine blood. But how best to meet the need is cause for debate. Human patients depend on blood donations year-round. But people choose whether they will donate. Anyone age 18 or older can voluntarily donate—after passing a health screening test. (Some 16- and 17-year-olds can also donate with parental permission.) But dogs don’t get to make that choice. That’s a sticking point for PETA.
Even though Hemopet’s greyhounds are saving other dogs, PETA says they should not be kept on site for that purpose. PETA wants all the greyhounds placed in homes and brought in to donate only if their owners choose to do so.
Hemopet has operated as a “closed” bank for decades. That means that donor dogs live on-site. The blood bank says this controlled setting ensures that the blood is disease-free. Disease risk increases with donations from unmonitored animals that “walk in” to donate. The state of California agrees. It requires the closed model for commercial canine blood banks.
Who is right? Both sides may have good intentions—and real drawbacks. These issues are difficult for people of varied opinions and motivations to settle. Proverbs 16:2 encourages that there is One who sees clearly: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”