The PABB community canine volunteer blood donor program began in 1987 to meet the transfusion needs of critically ill patients at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital. The motto “Pets Helping Pets” was chosen and the program gained the support of many dog clubs, breeders and individuals in the Delaware Valley. Initially, owners would travel with their pets to the Ryan Veterinary Hospital to participate in blood drives that were held in the evening. Although many dedicated participants supported the program, it became clear that coming to Philadelphia after a long day at work was a hardship for most. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go to the donors instead of the donors coming to us? From that, the concept of a bloodmobile for animals was born. A grant was awarded by the Bernice Barbour Foundation, serving as the impetus for the life-saving project. Additional funds were raised from individuals, dog clubs and other organizations, allowing the Animal Bloodmobile to become a reality in 1992.
The Animal Bloodmobile is used for blood drives organized by individuals, breeders, dog clubs and veterinarians in the Delaware Valley. Blood drives are held several times a week. Each blood drive is approximately four hours long, during which up to 15 dogs will volunteer a pint. The blood donation takes just a few minutes. Following donation, the donors are rewarded with a tasty treat of dog food, snacks, a special heart-shaped sticker and lots of pats on the head.
In 2002 the second Animal Bloodmobile, made possible by a generous gift from the Wurster Family Foundation, was unveiled. Bogie, a Labrador retriever owned by members of the Wurster family, was a Ryan patient whose life was saved by numerous blood transfusions.
The newest Animal Bloodmobile is impressive, with a length of 24 ft., a width of 8.3 ft. and a weight of 7 tons. The vehicle was custom-built to the specifications of the PABB team, consists of a Ford chassis with a V-10 engine and a custom-built body. It is equipped with a hydraulic exam table, a scale, a holding cage, sink and ample counter space for equipment. The new vehicle has storage space, including a compartment accessible from the exterior for dog food that is given to each donor as a way of saying thanks for donating.
In 1999 the popularity of the Animal Bloodmobile reached an all time high—and PABB continues to grow tremendously. Since its beginning, more than 6,000 dogs have participated in the blood donor program. Currently, close to 1,000 dogs are active donors, making it the largest voluntary canine blood donor program in the nation. The Bloodmobile clearly is a vital part of the hospital's life-saving treatments for patients.
The Animal Bloodmobile has garnered much attention from the media. Read some select articles below:
"Bloodmobile Roles with the Pooches," USA Today, January 18, 2004.
"New Animal Bloodmobile Unveiled," Bellwether, 54, Fall 2002.
“ 'In Their Eyes, Their Dog Has Just Done Something That Will Save Lives,' ” Penn Current, April 5, 2002.