The battle over “blood slave” donor dogs in California — pitting veterinarian against veterinarian and dog rescuer against dog rescuer — came to a surprise halt when Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that landed on his desk with unanimous support from legislators.

Senate Bill 202 by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, would have legalized a human-like, volunteer doggie donor system and opened secret state inspections of commercial blood banks to public scrutiny, but would also have allowed those commercial “closed-colony blood banks” to continue to exist.

“I am supportive of changing California’s law governing animal blood donation,” Newsom said in his veto message Saturday. “However, this bill does not go far enough.

“I ask that the Legislature send me legislation that effectively leads to the phasing-out of ‘closed colonies,’ where dogs are kept in cages for months and years to harvest their blood for sale. The legislation should provide for the safe and humane treatment of donor animals, the welfare of the recipients and adequate oversight and enforcement of this program.”

There are only two commercial animal blood banks: the for-profit Animal Blood Resources International, which has offices in Northern California and Michigan, and the nonprofit Hemopet in Garden Grove, which keeps greyhounds for their universal blood type and has drawn the ire of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Together, the two companies provide the overwhelming majority of the nation’s animal blood supply.

‘Animals will die’

Supporters of the bill were gobsmacked.

“We wholeheartedly agree that those captive colonies should be closed, but there’s a blood shortage in California right now,” said Judie Mancuso, CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation in Laguna Beach, which crafted the bill.

“Pets are dying because they can’t get blood right now. To pull the plug on closed colonies and think, ‘Yeah! We can get these community blood banks up and running quickly enough to meet the demand!’ — that’s a pipe dream.”

Sacramento tends to favor evolution over revolution, so the intent was to tackle the issue in two pieces: getting community blood banks set up first, then taking on closed colonies of “blood slaves” later.

“We are dumbfounded by this shortsightedness, as our big picture goal is to eventually phase out these closed colonies, but knew we had to take step one before ever getting to step two,” Mancuso said in a newsletter to supporters.

Wilk was working with the Newsom administration on the bill, and was a bit shell-shocked by the veto.

“From my own perspective, I don’t like to put people out of business,” he said. “Our bill would increase the supply, give people a chance to see there’s a better way to do it, and the market would make that correction. Obviously, the governor doesn’t share that view.”

The governor’s veto means that sick and injured dogs will die because the lifesaving blood they need will not be available, Mancuso said.

Competing bill ditched

Predictions of crippling blood shortages are exaggerated, said supporters of the competing measure, Assembly Bill 366 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica.

It would have done what the governor seeks by immediately outlawing closed colonies, but it was sidelined in the spring as AB 202 moved forward.

“That’s so unfortunate, because 366 had everything,” said activist Kerry Drozd of Yucca Valley.

“It would have allowed veterinary hospitals and clinics to be blood donation stations, and maybe even a mobile blood bank. We also had a phase-out period of three years for the closed colonies. They could stay open as blood bank facilities, but would no longer be allowed to keep dogs on site and farm them for their blood every 10 to 14 days. They’d have to adopt them out or have them fostered.”

A letter calling for the elimination of closed colonies was signed in the spring by 63 vets, including professors at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

“The current situation in California is egregiously unbalanced,” they wrote. “Hundreds of dogs — including many who have already endured months or years of suffering in the greyhound racing industry — are kept confined for months or years in situations that range from inadequate to appalling. Lack of sufficient oversight and inspection, coupled with a lack of transparency, has resulted in years of suffering by dogs in California’s closed colonies.

“There is no public appetite — nor compelling veterinary necessity — for continuing this model, however much effort could go into reforming them. We have a tested, viable alternative that is fundamentally sounder at balancing the interests of all affected parties, canine and human alike.”

Changes coming

After the veto, Bloom texted his condolences to Wilk and suggested they put their heads together going forward, Wilk said. The groups behind both bills are swinging into action to get the governor what he wants.

Supporters of 366 plan to resurrect it in the Legislature after the new year. Mancusco is reworking the language of 202 to include a phase-out period for commercial blood banks and conversion from the captive business model to the volunteer community model, she said.

“The administration is committed to engage, and hopefully, we can come up with a model that’s a more ethical way to draw blood,” Wilk said.

The California Veterinary Medical Association has warned that closing commercial blood banks and replacing them with community-based models “could jeopardize the source for all animal blood and animal blood products for the veterinary practices in the state.”

Representatives from the blood banks contend that their donor animals are happy, healthy, well-cared for and are adopted to good homes when their service is done. In a Facebook post shortly after PETA attacked Hemopet, CEO Jean Dodds said California requires licensed, closed-colony commercial animal blood banks because they “provide a medically superior and safer blood supply.”

Still, the tide appears to have clearly turned against the status quo.

“An animal should not have to suffer to save another animal. It’s inhumane,” Drozd said. “The end is coming for closed colonies, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Source link