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Dog blood bank closes following allegations of neglect

A former employee of the Pet Blood Bank in Texas said this photo shows crated greyhounds awaiting blood draws. (PETA)

A Texas supplier of canine blood for veterinary transfusions will close following allegations by an animal rights group that the company neglected about 150 greyhound donors in its care. All the dogs are being transferred to adoption programs, according to the National Greyhound Association and other greyhound advocacy groups.

The Pet Blood Bank, located northwest of Austin in the town of Cherokee, has been one of several commercial blood banks in the United States with an in-house “colony” of dogs to supply blood for treatments that can save the lives of ill and injured canines. The industry is largely unregulated, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said last month that photographs and videos it obtained from a former company employee showed dogs at the Texas facility were confined in squalid quarters and, in some cases, left to suffer from painful injuries and dental disease.

Owner Shane Altizer denied the allegations in an interview last month, and the San Saba County Sheriff’s Office, which visited the location with the Texas Greyhound Association in late September, said it found no evidence of abuse or neglect. An attorney for the blood bank said in a statement Thursday that its closure is “a business decision” made because the PETA campaign had “caused our long-standing customer relationships to be terminated.”

In the month since it accused the Pet Blood Bank of neglect, PETA had organized protests outside the Minnesota headquarters of one of the company’s customers, Patterson Veterinary, and the home of the chief executive of its parent group. The animal rights group said it also bought one share in Patterson Companies “to put pressure on the billion-dollar enterprise.”

Commercial operations like the Pet Blood Bank sell their products to veterinary clinics or supply companies, and many rely on retired racing greyhounds, a breed that often has a universal blood type. Some veterinary hospitals run small-scale banks that usually obtain blood from staff-owned pets or from patients whose owners may volunteer them in exchange for discounted services. Many university vet schools also have blood banks, some of which maintain in-house colonies of dogs or cats.

There are no federal regulations of these operations. California, which requires annual inspections, is the only state that regulates them.

Most commercial facilities with colonies say they adopt out their dogs after they have served as donors for a limited time, and Altizer said the Pet Blood Bank tried to do the same but that finding the greyhounds new homes often was difficult. In a statement Thursday, the National Greyhound Association and other dog-racing advocacy organizations said they were working with regional greyhound adoption groups and the Pet Blood Bank to place the dogs for adoption.

“We’re confident that every greyhound at the blood bank will be on its way to a loving new home within the next few days,” said Jim Gartland, the association’s executive director.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said her organization will “now work hard to get regulations passed to ensure all blood for emergency transfusions comes from real donors and not from imprisoned, miserable dogs.”

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