Animal Ethics & Welfare:
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 donors is never compromised.
As a USDA-licensed commercial producer of blood plasma for veterinary use, our facilities, donors, and products are subject to rigorous quality checks, in addition to our own commitment to the health and well-being of our donors.
Equine donors live in a quarantined, USDA-licensed facility on our property on California’s Central Coast. Their care is overseen by a licensed veterinarian, our own veterinary assistant, and Plasvacc’s Pheresing technicians. The physical well-being and care of our equine donors are of the utmost importance to us, which is why our animals are closely monitored through annual physical inspections and regular donor reports, which Plasvacc’s veterinary surgeons submit.
All members of our donor herd are attended to 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Our technicians perform daily checks to ensure that the donors are healthy and have frequent interaction with our staff. Equine technicians are trained in animal husbandry and welfare, obedience training, and basic veterinary monitoring and treatment.
Our equine donor herd is comprised of retired horses given a second chance at life by Plasvacc. These horses are typically 12-16 years of age when they join us. Qualification to enter the herd is earned after strict antibody screening and disease testing.
As part of our dedication to animal welfare, we know that mental welfare is vital to the health and well-being of all our donor animals. Because of this, we aim to emulate natural environments for our donors to live and thrive in. Equine donors are housed in large, irrigated pastures and socialize in herds of similarly behaved horses. Here, there is plenty of room to run, play and buck around the pasture if they so choose.
An independent Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) has approved all 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 comprises 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 canine donors 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 a 15-minute drive away. Their physical well-being and care is extraordinary.
The veterinarians are assisted by a team of trained and qualified kennel attendants who look after our canine donors 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 canine donors is also extremely important. Kennel enrichment is a priority at Plasvacc to create happy donors. We are aware that the kennel environment is a potential psychogenic stressor for some canines, and all aspects of kennel and environmental enrichment form a normal part of their husbandry. This is reflected in comments we receive from our veterinarians about how quiet the kennels are and that our canine donors do not display abnormal behaviors that are attributable to boring and barren environments. This is despite the fact that most of our canine donors 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, and occupational enrichment with obedience training is performed on a regular basis.
Physical enrichment to improve the quality and complexity of the canine donors’ 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 canines. The donors are able to command a better view of their surroundings on raised platforms in their yards. They can choose to be inside, undercover, 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 kenneled canines. Wells (2009) showed that olfactory enrichment with the placement of lavender-scented cloths has a calming effect, so Plasvacc has implemented this as an enrichment strategy.
Our canine donors are currently all ex-racing greyhounds that have been given a second chance at life by Plasvacc. The donors are typically 2-3 years of age when they join us. They qualify to enter the kennels after strict immune-hematological and disease testing is performed. They are desexed and started on a preventative medicine and hyperimmunization program.
Plasvacc works alongside a third-party not-for-profit charity named Anubis Retirement Ltd. Once a canine donor officially retires from donating, they can either be rehomed (where possible) with a suitable family or stay at the ‘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 they live with us."