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NGAP’s Stance on Blood Donation

Human blood donors probably save millions of lives each year. They give lifesaving blood anonymously to people they will probably never know. Dogs and cats can do the same thing. The greyhound has long been a desirable canine for the use of being a blood donor. There are good reasons why it should be used and there are also good reasons why it shouldn’t be used. The number one reason why greyhounds are used for blood donation is that many of them have a universal blood type. The number two reason, in my view, is because they are easy. They will get used to a routine. They will either stand or lie down and permit you to put a large needle into their jugular vein to draw a liter of blood without so much as a whimper. Their veins are easy to find. They have huge hemocrits. And, oh yes! Their blood is red, too! As long as you can put red blood into another dog and it’s easy, they’ll do it!

On the bad side, many or even most, have been exposed to some form of tick-born disease and although they may not show infection, they will show titers for one, and in some cases more than one, tick-born disease. Their platelets are lower than most other breeds and according to the studies we have done, 75% of greyhounds are von Willebrand positive and 38% are carriers.

There are different ways to obtain blood from a donor. At some small practices, the vet will bring in their own dog from home (their pet) and draw an occasional unit of blood. That gets an “A”.

The University of Pennsylvania probably has the best blood donor program in the United States. They have a bloodmobile, and with many people enlisted in the city, it travels around and meets groups of dogs. It’s good for the blood bank at the University of Pennsylvania because they get lots of blood. It’s good for the dogs that are donating, because there blood is checked routinely and they also get free blood and usually a free bag of food. Best of all, they’ve helped save a life and then have the opportunity to go home at night and sleep in a soft bed. University of Pennsylvania gets and A+.

Please note that many years ago University of Pennsylvania once kept captive greyhounds as blood donors. We’re not quite sure why they gave it up, but I’m sure it wasn’t based on the fact that the fledging National Greyhound Adoption Program objected to their use. But in any case, not only are they on the right track, they probably lead the nation.

More and more, across the country, universities and blood banks are using non-captive animals as blood donors. The largest animal blood bank in the nation, Animal Blood Bank uses captive dogs that live in large open areas. They are all taken from animal control and humane societies. They were all destined for death. However, it is difficult to give them a rating, since I have not visited their facilities. They also support what we do and send us donations annually.

Institutions that have captive donors or where their donors sleep in small quarters, or the dogs have little or no bedding, where the dogs health issues are not routinely and appropriately cared for, where the dogs urinate and defecate in their cages and maybe sometimes go for a walk, and where the facility has millions of dollars in surpluses at their disposal each year - those institutions rate an “F”. The Animal Medical Center is one of those institutions. The greyhounds we were able to obtain from the AMC were being held captive their due to misrepresentation. None of their owners had ever given permission for the dogs to be used as blood donors and believed their dogs to be adopted into homes.

Probably worse yet is The Pet Blood Bank, located and hidden somewhere in Austin, Texas, with somewhere between 100 and 200 greyhound captives. We know of many greyhounds that have just recently been released from there. Many of their owners had also never given permission for their greyhounds to be used as blood donors. That again is misrepresentation. We have not yet been invited to their facility to see how the dogs live or to inspect their teeth. We know from the records we received that one month the dog’s teeth could be rated excellent by one handler when blood was being drawn and the next month they had been down-graded. Apparently, they were not up to date with their vaccinations either. Is this the case with the remaining greyhounds? We may learn someday.

Lastly, National Greyhound Adoption Program does not object to greyhounds or other dogs being used as blood donors. Our primary concern is how they are being used and whether or not they are being well cared for or exploited. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to figure that out!

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