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Pets help save the lives of other pets through local blood bank

Jaeger is a regular blood donor for pets in need of a transfusion.
Beth Adams/WXXI News
Jaeger is a regular blood donor for pets in need of a transfusion.

It’s not unusual for the supply of blood donations to run low during the summer months as donors are on vacation and out of their normal routines. The Rochester chapter of the American Red Cross says it received more than double its goal of donors for a blood drive Wednesday in Henrietta.

The turnout might have something to do with the location. The drive was held at Monroe Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services.

"I think the pet community just naturally has a big heart and I think they heard about this and just wanted to do something to help and pay it forward," said Red Cross spokesperson Patty Corvaia.

The Red Cross is teaming up with the veterinary clinic to call attention to the fact that just like humans, pets also need blood transfusions when they experience trauma or suffer from a range of illnesses. Monroe Veterinary Associates recently established a blood bank that collects donations from local dogs and cats.  Previously, they used to rely on shipments of blood from as far away as California and sometimes the critical blood supply ran short.

A 200-pound English Mastiff named Jaeger is a regular donor.

"He actually loves it," said the dog's owner, Kathy Sercu. "He got trained from very young. I have stairs I carry with me. He walks himself up on the table. He lays on his side and just lays there."  

Sercu is a veterinary technician at Perinton Veterinary Hospital.  All of the 12 dogs and seven cats that currently donate blood belong to staff members within the Monroe Veterinary Associates group.  Less than two ounces of blood will be taken from a cat, but a large dog like Jaeger can donate up to one liter of blood. 

"We know that they're volunteers by their willingness to sit still for the blood donations and them being happy," explained blood bank coordinator Valerie Clifford. "We reward them with lots of love and food afterward, always."

The animal donors are screened for infectious disease and a sufficient supply of red blood cells before any blood is taken.  At least for now, the blood bank is not asking for donations from pets owned by the public at large.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.