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Racing dogs land 2nd careers as blood donors

Image: A greyhound, donates blood at Ohio State University's small animal clinic in Columbus, Ohio.
Lady, a 7-year-old greyhound, donates blood ednesday at Ohio State University's small animal clinic in Columbus, Ohio. Kiichiro Sato / ASSOCIATED PRESS
/ Source: The Associated Press

A group of 55 greyhounds rescued after a life of racing are helping to save more canine lives with the donation of their blood.

The dogs, most owned by professors, technicians and students at the Ohio State University veterinary school, visit the school several times a year to give blood.

Greyhounds represent the bulk of the donors, and with good reason because they typically have a universal blood type that any dog can receive. Greyhounds also have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy, said veterinarian Guillermo Couto, who works with the animal blood donor program at OSU.

Dog owners say their pets show no reluctance to donate blood.

"He knows where we're going. As soon as we pull up to the veterinary hospital, he's like dragging me," said Sarah Nash, 26, of Kent, a senior veterinary student who adopted her greyhound, Kenyon, three years ago.

Kenyon's racing career at a Florida track ended when he suffered smoke inhalation in a kennel fire that killed two-thirds of the dogs boarded there, Nash said Thursday by phone.

Couto, who works with the animal blood donor program at OSU, said people are surprised to hear dogs — and even cats — donate blood. But animals, like humans, sometimes need blood because of illness, injury or surgery, Couto said.

"If you think about it, it's no different than when people need blood donations," Couto said.

Couto said any suggestion of a "donor mill" was not fair because the dogs have homes and only come to the clinic to give blood and get a checkup. The dogs get free food and veterinary care.

"These guys are actually pets. We help the donors financially and medically," he said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said the arrangement sounded like a way to assure good adoptive homes for greyhounds.

"To think they are in good, loving homes and they have been rescued from a difficult racing life — that's a positive thing," said Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA spokeswoman.

She said the alternative was "animals that are warehoused in vet hospitals indefinitely and live in cages in order to give blood or, and it's hard to say which is worse, animals who are basically kept in blood banks which often involve outside, continuous chaining or tethering."

Most of the OSU donors give blood four or five times a year. Like humans, dog blood donations are one pint, with can provide several blood products.

The OSU donor program gets about 300-400 pints a year, with the blood used for in-house veterinary needs or sold at cost to veterinary clinics for $80 to $120 per pint, Couto said.