California passed a law on Saturday aimed at phasing out one of the country’s major dog blood banks and keeping dogs in facilities while their blood is being drawn.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that allows veterinarians to run blood banks in the community where residents can take their pets to donate blood and sell blood supplies to clinics in need. The law also creates a plan to gradually eliminate closed colony banks, where dogs are kept in facilities while their blood is drawn repeatedly.
The shift comes as California’s dog blood supply is in demand for dogs who become sick or need emergency surgery. While community banks are common in other states, they haven’t been allowed in California, which only allows closed colonies or vets to draw blood from pets in their own clinics.
Animal rights activists have long resisted the use of closed colony banks, saying they want dogs to live in homes with caring families and not be locked up in facilities. You pushed for change a few years ago. Legislature passed a bill to establish a community bank for dog blood, but Newsom vetoed it, saying it was not going far enough to phase out the practice of keeping donor dogs in facilities.
The new law, known as AB1282, requires the state to get rid of closed colony banks 18 months after officials found community banks to sell at least as much dog blood as closed banks sold in a year.
“Whether you are talking about a greyhound that was led on rails in the south or a dog that became homeless on the street, you want these animals to live in a home with a loving family,” said Daniel Paden, vice president from the animal rights group PETA. “If you are physically and behaviorally healthy and ready to go to the vet to donate, this is a remarkable service to other dogs.”
Three years ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the state alleging that 200 greyhounds kept in a closed colony blood bank in Orange County had been ill-treated. The nonprofit bank known as Hemopet said the dogs from the racing industry were rescued and well looked after while participating in a blood donation program for 10 months before being placed in screened adoptive homes.
A message left for Hemopet was not returned. On their website, the group says that closed colony banks can ensure a steady and clean blood supply for dogs and that their donors do not carry any infectious diseases. The website also said that Hemopet takes good care of its dogs and works with greyhounds as they are considered universal blood donors that can be given to all dogs regardless of blood type.
Hemopet is one of two commercial blood banks licensed in California. A message left on behalf of Animal Blood Resources International was not returned.
Animal rights groups and veterinary experts said the blood banking of dogs in the community can be safely done with modern veterinary science. The California Veterinary Medical Association, which has nearly 8,000 members, approved the bill once a process was in place to ease the transition to the new system while ensuring adequate blood supply, said Dr. Grant Miller, the Association’s director of regulatory affairs.
Demand for blood donations is already high and increasing every year as residents look for more treatment options for their pets, he said.
“The role of animals in society has changed over the past few decades and they are real family members,” he said, adding that residents “want to do whatever they can to help their pets.”
Judie Mancuso, founder of Social Compassion in Legislation, said animal rights groups had long wanted to phase out closed banks but recognized the need for a transition period. Under the new law, state officials will assess when community banking has generated enough blood supplies to do so, she said.
“We don’t know how many vets or stores will open. There is just no such thing as a crystal ball, ”she said. “We don’t know, but at least we’re changing the law to open the door.”