The barking in the Hemopet’s building was always deafening.
With 200 greyhounds stuffed in tiny, rusty cages, that erupted into jarring noises the moment someone stepped into the building, the constant building was in a terrible condition.
“The dog barking is persistent and loud, and there’s no respite for the animals from that constant noise,” Dan Paden, associate director of evidence analysis at PETA, said. “Some of the workers were screaming at the dogs, ‘Shut up, be quiet, stop,’ which only adds to those animals’ stress and anxiety and fear.”
The California business “provides state-of-the-art blood components and supplies for transfusions to veterinary clinics nationwide.” Functioning as a blood bank, it adopts abandoned greyhounds from the racing industry, it shelters them at the facility, drawing their blood. The drawn blood is then told to clinics throughout North America and Asia that treat sick animals. It is only then that the greyhounds are put up for adoption.
While Hemopet might seem to be working for a great cause superficially, animal welfare advocates are concerned about the treatment of the animals here. When an investigator from PETA went as an undercover at the facility last year, it was reported that the greyhounds were seriously neglected and mistreated.
“The eyewitness saw these large, social, energetic dogs reduced to ‘blood bags’ on four limbs,” Paden said. “They are kept in crates so small that they can barely stand up, they can barely turn around. When they try to lay down, their back is against one side of the crate, and they can hardly extend their four limbs out without touching the other side of the crate.”
They were only taken out for blood transfusion or for a short walk.
“You have dogs who have been discarded by the racing industry … who, like every dog, need an opportunity to run and to play, only being taken out for five minutes, and put on a concrete path as their so-called exercise,” he said.
Even inside their cages, they were living in scarcity. With neither comfort or warmth, they had nothing but a thin blanket and a single toy. Because of the severe confinement, many of the dogs were ill.
“The eyewitness saw … a tremendous amount of hair loss and calluses and even pockets of fluid accumulated on these animals’ limbs,” Paden said. “The veterinarian we consulted said that all of those are the effects of this persistent confinement on hard surfaces.”
According to Paden, because of the neglect, the Greyhounds were desperate for attention. They would injure and break the tips of their tails when someone neared their kennel.
Apart from the confinement, one of the worst things was the blood drawing process. Every 10 to 14 days, the dogs bled and became due to it.
Many of the dogs were on the verge of anaemia, and lacking in red blood cells,” Paden said. “Dogs were lethargic and listless after withdrawals, and they were put back into crates and not monitored, which is a dangerous and irresponsible oversight. There was a significant amount of bleeding and bruising along the neck on the dogs following the blood draws.”
Yes, the blood donation from dogs is life-saving in many facilities. But it mostly because the owners themselves volunteer their pets as a saviour. From this perspective, the way Hemopet runs is extremely disputable.
The dogs weren’t spared from the blood draws even when they were unwell or sick with something as serious as lupus. Using blood from a sick dog is dangerous to both the donor and the receiver, Paden countered.
Even though Hemopoietic is a business that sells blood for profit, it is registered as a non-profit organization in the U.S.
“We actually filed a complaint with the California attorney general, asking them to investigate, asking them why this company has charity status,” Paden said. “We found very wide discrepancies between what Hemopet claims [on its website] and what the reality is for the animals — there are boasts about exercise, and the animals’ husbandry and care, which do not line up in the least with the reality and the fact that we observed day in and day out for months.”
Hemopet considered itself a legitimate rescue and adoption centre, and Paden is concerned about that.
“The eyewitness saw numerous dogs who would have a sign over their crate, which read, ‘Going Home,’ which indicated that these dogs had been, at least on paper, adopted,” Paden said. “Except that those dogs would stay in those crates and continue to be bled for three or four more weeks and not go home because Hemopet had to find and obtain another dog to take the animal’s place in their blood-drawing queue.”
“It was an eye-opening experience, and also a heart-wrenching experience for the witness,” Paden added.
A spokesperson from the Hemopet said that PETA has “broadcasted unfounded information about Hemopet and animal blood bank services.” However, the company still considers itself an “exemplary facility”.
“Our dogs are cared for by over 40 persons and additional volunteers who directly and regularly walk and play with them,” the Hemopet spokesperson said. “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.”
Yes, the blood is essential. But Paden knows that there are more ethical ways to get them.
There are a growing number of veterinary schools, which operate very successful community-based blood banks, where the animals, whether it be dogs or cats, live at home with their family, and every three or four months, the guardian will bring them to the clinic, or even a mobile clinic, and a vet or vet tech will draw blood from their animal for the purpose of donating it,” Paden said. “In exchange for that, the animals are often given free veterinary care … and of course, the animal gets to go home at the end of the day, like a human blood donor would, and not just be cooped back up in an unnatural, stressful situation.”
Another method is to get owners to donate their pets’ blood.
“A practising veterinarian or a group of veterinarians … could have a list of their clients with large, even-tempered dogs in good health, and if a patient was presented in need of a transfusion, the veterinarian would call someone on this list, and say, ‘Can you bring your dog in? We need an urgent donation of plasma or red blood cells,’” Paden said. “So work with their own client list to develop that supply without having to buy blood from a facility keeping dogs captive.”
Paden is encouraging people to speak out about blood banks like Hemopet and put an end to them.
“We understand that veterinarians are very busy people, and we have found that not many of them are aware that in sourcing a blood product for one of their patients that they’re underwriting the suffering of another animal,” Paden said. “So we’re really encouraging people who are struck by this issue … to speak to their veterinarians about it, because it’s a rather hidden and almost entirely unregimented industry, and the way it’s going to improve for animals is when veterinarians themselves stop sourcing products from these blood farms, and pursue the alternate means of obtaining blood in order to help an animal in critical care.”
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