Major US blood bank for pets abuses animals, sells potentially ‘unsafe’ blood: report

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One of the US’s largest animal blood banks has allegedly been drawing its supply from “emaciated, sick, injured, elderly and/or medicated” cats and dogs — and selling it to veterinarians nationwide despite safety concerns, according to a bombshell report currently being investigated by authorities in Indiana.
The disturbing allegations were lodged against the Veterinarians’ Blood Bank in Indiana by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after an undercover investigator spent seven months last year at the facility.
Not only has VBB allegedly been mistreating animals and keeping them as donors for life, the blood it ships out is potentially dangerous to the animals that receive it — mostly cats and dogs who are pets, according to PETA complaints to state and local officials.
“Our investigator saw staff take blood from animals that were sick with cancer and other infections, sometimes pulling blood a week before the animal dies,” PETA vice president Dan Paden told The Post. “These were compromised animals.”
7 An injured dog that an undercover PETA investigator took a photo of at an animal blood bank. PETA
PETA cited photos and videos of a staggering 860 animals being held at the giant facility. Disturbing footage shows dogs suffering wounds caused by fights with incompatible kennel mates, according to the complaints. In one segment, a staffer claims her manager paid her $200 for acquiring two stray cats from Facebook ads, according to video footage. Elsewhere, staffers discuss a 12-year-old hound that had been born at VBB and endured an “awful” debarking surgery.
Kennels with “hard, grated floors that caused injuries to the animals’ feet and legs” and cages weren’t cleaned daily, according to PETA’s complaints to government authorities.
The Post could not independently verify that the video was taken at VBB.
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health opened an investigation of VBB after visiting the Vallonia, Ind. facility at the end of the year and receiving a complaint from PETA, the agency confirmed to The Post. A PETA investigation seven years ago of another blood bank in Texas that held 150 dogs in “deplorable” conditions resulted in that facility shuttering.
7 The Veterinarians’ Blood Bank, founded in 2002, is housed at facility (left) in Vallonia, Ind. Google Maps
It’s a rare glimpse into the largely unregulated animal blood bank industry, whose oversight has been left to various state agencies or local law enforcement offices. There is no federal guidance about the “housing and treatment of animal blood donors,” according to the Association of Veterinary Hematology and Transfusion Medicine.
There are about 10 large commercial animal blood banks like VBB in the US, with the rest administered by veterinarian schools or nonprofits where most animal donors live in homes as pets, according to AVHTM president Dana LeVine, who teaches at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University.
“Most people feel that the animals should do their service and be adopted out after a few years,” LeVine told The Post, noting that that’s the practice of commercial banks including Hemopet and Animal Blood Resources International.
Most banks draw blood monthly or every two months, according to Anne Hale, a veterinarian in New Mexico and member of AVHTM. By contrast, VBB’s animals live at the facility for the rest of their lives, during which their blood is drawn every three weeks, PETA claims.
VBB was founded in 2002 by veterinarians Ron Harrison and Darren Bryant, according to its website, which has a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2014. It displays one article that touts an all-volunteer blood bank in Virginia called Blue Ridge that relies on pet owners to bring in their pets for blood donations.
In an interview with The Post, Bryant declined to comment on the video and declined to directly address whether the facility draws blood from sick animals. He acknowledged that the animals share kennels and can get wounded during fights, but that the injuries are not “unattended.”
7 Dogs at VBB are penned in pairs and sometime fight with each other. PETA
7 PETA alleges that the dogs get wounds from fighting with each other and from the hard surfaces of their kennels. PETA
He said the state inspector “had small complaints like a rusty spot on a cage or the way we disinfect the food bowls,” and that the inspector recommended that VBB give the dogs “thicker pads” for relief from the hard floor.
“If our animals are not healthy, people are not going to buy a blood product from us,” Bryant told The Post.
VBB does not have an adoption program for the animals it holds, according to Bryant, who said the facility houses “more like 500” dogs and cats versus PETA’s claim of 860.
“If they are too old to donate blood they just live here,” Bryant said. “It’s not a bad life. They are exercised every day and their pens are cleaned every day.”
“We don’t have strays as far as I know,” Bryant added, responding to another allegation by PETA in its letters of complaint. He said he had no knowledge of the staff’s efforts to procure pets via Facebook ads. “We purchase animals from people who breed them for research for the medical community,” he said.
7 Cats are also kept as blood donors at VBB. PETA
When Indiana’s Board of Animal Health inspected the VBB facility it was accompanied by an official from the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in response to an “animal cruelty” complaint from PETA alleging that two cats at VBB had serious medical conditions that were not being treated.
“We are investigating this facility,” Denise Derrer Spears, a spokesperson for the Indiana agency told The Post. An inspector made recommendations for the cat facility to better “align with standard industry practices” and a report on the dogs is in the works, Spears said. The inspector is still interviewing people associated with VBB and will return for a follow-up inspection, Spears said.
The last time the state visited the facility was “five or six years ago,” Spears added.
The agency’s authority is limited as it is tasked specifically with oversight of dog breeding facilities in the state and doesn’t regulate blood banks. VBB is registered as a dog breeder, though none of its animals can be adopted by the general public.
“The primary thing we go out to look at is animal care and welfare and whether they are in good bodily condition,” Spears said.
7 The animal blood donor industry is cloaked in secrecy, industry experts say. PETA
The sheriff’s office did not return calls for comment.
The commercial animal blood industry was under the spotlight in 2017 when PETA’s undercover investigation in Cherokee, Texas revealed the shocking conditions that retired greyhound racing dogs were living in.
That facility, Pet Blood Bank, housed 150 greyhounds – a breed that typically has a universal blood type – who had open wounds, rotting teeth and were kept in dirt floor pens and were deprived of food, care and shelter, according to a Washington Post report.
After the expose, Pet Blood Bank’s largest customer, $6.5 billion Patterson Veterinarian, dropped the company, according to Patterson’s website.
7 One dog at VBB was born at the facility and underwent debarking surgery, PETA alleges. PETA
The National Greyhound Association prohibited its members from sending greyhounds to blood banks directly and banned the dogs from being used for their blood for longer than 18 months or past the age of seven, according to its website.
Other commercial animal blood banks, including Hemopet in California – the only state that regulates such businesses – confine animals temporarily, eventually putting them up for adoption, according to the company’s website.
The UK regulates animal blood banks, only licensing facilities that rely on volunteers to bring in their pets for donations. There are no so-called “closed colonies” in the UK where animals are held at blood banks, Hale said.

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