Animal Ethics: Our Responsibility
Plasvacc’s directors and employees are wholly committed to ensuring the health and welfare of our donor animals. Plasvacc adheres to a strict set of health standards throughout the entire plasma collection process and the welfare of our livestock is never compromised. As a USDA licensed commercial producer of blood plasma for veterinary use, our facilities, livestock and products are subject to rigorous quality checks, in addition to our own commitment to the health and well-being of our livestock.
Plasvacc USA maintains a facility on a lush 100-acre property on the central coast of California. Here, our animals reside and undergo a closely monitored hyperimmunization regimen. Only animals in peak health and physical condition are eligible donors.
In contrast to blood banks both in United States of America and overseas, Plasvacc`s business is heavily regulated.
Donor horses run free in large paddocks and enjoy irrigated improved pastures, with plenty of shelter and clean high quality water. Company veterinarians supervise a detailed health and welfare program ensuring high standards of parasite control, behavior training, disease prevention strategies, vaccinations, feet (hoof) and dental care. Experienced and trained auxiliary staff and an on-site laboratory for testing help the veterinarians ensure the good health of our animals is maintained at all times.
An independent Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) has approved all of our activities involving animals used as donors of blood products. It is a Department of Agriculture committee constituted in accordance with the requirements of the code. They monitor the care and use of our donor animals with annual physical inspections and regular reports on donors submitted by Plasvacc veterinary surgeons. The committee is comprised of a minimum of:
- A person with qualifications in veterinary science and with experience relevant to the activities of the institution
- A suitably qualified person with substantial recent experience in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, generally with a high degree in research.
- A person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not involved in the care and use of animals in plasma therapy.
- A person who is both independent of the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in plasma therapy. They should be viewed by the general community as bringing a completely independent view to the AEC.
Our dogs live in a quarantined kennel facility on our Australian property under the care of two veterinary surgeons employed by Plasvacc, with access to another two privately owned veterinary clinics just 15 minutes drive away. Their physical wellbeing and care is extraordinary.
The veterinarians are assisted by a team of trained and qualified kennel attendants who look after our dogs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Kennel attendants are formally trained in animal husbandry and welfare, obedience training and basic veterinary monitoring and treatment.
The mental welfare of our donor dogs is also extremely important. Kennel enrichment is considered a priority at Plasvacc to create happy dogs. We are aware that the kennel environment is a potential psychogenic stressor for some dogs and all aspects of kennel and environmental enrichment form a normal part of their husbandry. This is reflected in comments we receive from the AEC about how quiet the kennels are, and that our dogs do not display abnormal behaviors that are attributable to boring and barren environments. This is despite the fact that most of our dogs have failed behavioral assessments at the time they are admitted into our facility and thus CANNOT BE REHOMED!
Social enrichment with group or pair housing and exercising along with regular contact with our kennel attendants provides a constant source of complex mental stimulation.
Occupational enrichment with obedience training is performed on a regular basis.
Physical enrichment to improve the quality and complexity of the dogs’ living space is achieved with a variety of toys that are rotated regularly to ensure interest. Concrete tunnels provide a safe protected area and offer privacy from other dogs. The dogs are able to command a better view of their surroundings on raised platforms in their yards, they can choose to be inside under cover or outside in a spacious yard. Sandboxes provided in outdoor areas allow them to engage in normal digging behavior.
Sensory enrichment stimulates their senses – sight, sound and smell. Having visual access to the rest of the kennels is important to these sighthounds and can provide a sense of security. Auditory enrichment with classical music is provided as it may help mitigate some of the stress inherent for many kennelled dogs. Wells 2009 showed that Olfactory enrichment with placement of lavender-scented cloths has a calming effect so Plasvacc has implemented this enrichment strategy.
Our donor dogs are currently all ex-racing greyhounds that have been given a second chance at life by Plasvacc. The dogs are typically 2-3 years of age when they join us. They qualify to enter the kennels after strict immune-haematological and disease testing is performed. They are desexed and started on a preventative medicine and hyperimmunization program.
Plasvacc operates a registered, not-for-profit charity, named Anubis Retirement Ltd. Once a dog officially retires from donating they can either be rehomed (if possible) with a suitable family or they stay on at Plasvacc in our ‘Anubis Retirement Village’ where they live out the natural course of their lives. Rehoming some of these donors is only possible because of the positive effect Plasvacc staff have had on their temperament during the years that they live with us.