“Is there anyone who thinks we do not all have souls?” This was a question thrown out by Kathy, the cloned human in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, “Never Let Me Go.” In the novel, most of the human clones end their life after four to six organ transplants. They prove their “value” through that process. The clones do not resist their destiny, but they fear the parting with their loved ones and feel the same emotion like “real” humans.
The novel’s background seems like a future society that will never come, but it is happening in our society. Not clones, but dogs called “donor dogs” are living in the novel’s society. But there is still a glimmer of hope for dogs. An organization called Korean Canine Blood Donor Association (KCBDA) is helping donor dogs with a companion dog blood donation campaign. The Argus met Kang Boo-sung, the representative of the KCBDA to find out about their activities, goals and values.
What is a Donor Dog?
A donor dog is a dog that supplies blood transfusion to injured or sick dogs. Donor dog does not mean a dog that has chosen to donate blood voluntarily by the dog owner, but only dogs that are raised for blood transfusion. Large dogs such as Shepherd and Retriever are mostly adopted as donor dogs. Korea has a small number of donor dogs at several university hospitals. But most of the donor dog-breeding and dog blood is handled by Korean Animal Blood Bank, which is a private company.
Do dogs have a blood type? What dogs can give a blood donation?
In the first blood transfusion, dogs do not have the rejection of heterogenetic antibody like human, so they can receive blood regardless of the blood type. But after the first process, the antibodies are formed. From the second time, the antibody responds to the transfused blood and rejects other blood that does not match its blood type.
The qualification for dog to give a transfusion is like this.
• Age: Two to Eight
• Weight: Above 25 kilograms. Because of the weight, the blood donations are usually from large dogs such as Shepherd and Retriever.
• Health Condition: Dogs that got rid of heart worms, taken regular vaccination, and passed the health medical examination.
The Argus: Please introduce yourself and the Korean Canine Blood Donor Association (KCBDA).
Kang Boo-sung(Kang): Hello, I am Kang Boo Sung, the representative of the KCBDA. KCBDA is an association organized by the dog guardians who want to solve the donor dog problem. In July 2017, we started to help companion dogs donate blood, and in October 2018, we officially founded the association.
The Argus: How did you found the KCBDA?
Kang: In 2017, I was hosting a companion animal related podcast program “Dog Voice.” The topic of the program in July was about donor dogs. At that time, most of the dog guardians including myself were not aware of donor dogs’ existence. We were very shocked by it. After the program, I asked the guardian who suggested the topic, “How can I solve this problem?” He said, “If companion dogs donate blood, it can be solved.” I looked it up with interest, and I thought, “The case of donor dogs can be solved if our dogs donate blood.” So the large dog conservation group gathered and started an event-style campaign to give gifts, cheer and encourage their dogs to donate blood instead of doing it in a heavy atmosphere.
The Argus: Then KCBDA must be doing a lot of activities to decrease donor dogs and increase blood donation from companion dogs. What activities KCBDA do?
Kang: In short, our goal and activities are simply encouraging companion dogs to donate blood. First of all, we advertise the existence of donor dogs for people who know nothing about them. But we thought just advertising about their poor situation and appealing to emotions can’t make things better for the dogs. So we are putting more time and manpower to blood donation campaign than just advertising about donor dogs.
In order for dogs to donate blood, they need a hospital in which to donate blood. Currently, hospitals that can help people donate their dogs’ blood are concentrated in Seoul, so people living in rural areas are not able to donate blood even if they wanted to. Therefore, we are signing MOUs with local hospitals to make it easier for people who want their dogs to donate blood in the provinces.
The DOgNOR campaign started with a similar purpose. Because there were only one or two local hospitals to help blood donation at the time, it was difficult to donate blood. So I thought it would be nice to have a car that can provide a service to those who want to participate in the campaign with their dogs. In the meantime, we got a call from Hyundai Motor Co. They wanted a campaign for companion dogs and our campaign caught their eyes. They contacted us and wanted to help our campaign. With their kind support, we got a blood donation car. Now DOgNOR campaign goes all over the country. We announce the date and location in advance, visiting the place with a car to facilitate companion dog blood donations.
The Argus: What are the most memorable moments from your supporting activities?
Kang: I feel most proud when companion dogs’ blood saves other sick dogs. In fact, not long ago, buying blood from the Korean Animal Blood Bank in Gangwon Province was the only option for blood transfusion. If the blood was right for the dog, it would be great. But if the dog’s body rejects the blood, there was no other way to cure the dog. However, after companion dogs started donating blood, if the blood of the donor dog was rejected by the sick dog, the sick dog can still be transfused and treated. A few years ago, there was a dog that needed a blood transfusion. She had a disease that required blood transfusions annually, and at that time, her body rejected all the blood from the donor dog. Our association heard the news and we sent the blood of three dogs that matched her blood type. Fortunately, the last blood we sent matched her and now she is so healthy that she does not longer need blood transfusions. There have been other cases like this, and more are constantly coming out; cases like this really fuels us to encourage our campaign to get more large dogs to donate blood.
The Argus: What difficulties have you experienced during the campaign?
Kang: People who are working for our association are volunteers and have their own jobs. Also, since they are not employees, they do not get paid for any of their activities. So most of them are taking their precious time and money for the association. This was hard for us in the early stage of the campaign. Also, the thought of “Will many people participate in this campaign?” made us nervous. But as I said earlier, all the members of the group were proud that sick dogs were saved through our campaign activities, so we were able to continue the campaign in spite of the hard times.
The Argus: Some people worry that the blood donation of companion dogs can be harmful to them. Also, some of them even claim it is an act of animal abuse. What do you think about their opinion?
Kang: I think people who do not fully understand the blood donation process say that. If you know about the blood donation process, you will realize that the idea of cruelty to animals is wrong. Currently, only healthy dogs donate blood after a health check-up so it does not affect their health.
Also, as I checked with some veterinarians to ensure safety of our program, the dog’s blood is regenerated every three months. Blood donation activities promote the production of red blood cells in dogs, while also promoting metabolism, which helps them to stay healthy. Of course, when dogs donate blood, they can be stressed by needles. However, since blood donation is restricted to once a year, the stress from blood donation is never enough to be animal abuse. Rather, I think just keeping donor dogs to draw blood out for other sick dogs is an act of animal cruelty.
The Argus: You have been doing this campaign for companion dogs’ blood donation for some time now. What did you achieve so far through the campaign?
Kang: In the early days, I did not really imagine that the campaign would grow this big. Currently, about 90 dogs have donated blood, and 200 dogs are on standby. Also, seven hospitals have signed MOUs. Moreover, not only Hyundai Motor Co. but also many sponsors to support the campaign, allowing us to launch a campaign on a larger scale.
The Argus: What do you think is the significance of this campaign activity and how can it contribute positively to society?
Kang: Our goal is to give freedom to donor dogs, but also to give healthy blood to sick puppies. The blood of a donor dog is normal in numbers. But the stress to donor dogs that have their blood drawn three times a year can’t be compared to a companion dog that donates blood once a year. Also, unlike companion dogs that are cared by the guardians with exercise, good feeding, and with care and affection, donor dogs are trapped in a cage and have their blood drawn without being fed well. That is why companion dog blood is better at healing sick dogs. So donating companion dog blood can not only increase the effectiveness of treatment, but also reduce the cost of animal health care overall.
It can also change how the large dogs are perceived. In Korea, there are many people who are afraid of large dogs. Thus, some owners of large dogs even have to walk their dogs late at night when nobody can see them. I think it is an opportunity for the awareness of big dogs to change more positively because only large dogs can donate blood based on the necessary conditions.
The Argus: If you want to suggest any ideas to promote the campaign to a public institution, what would you suggest?
Kang: It would be nice if the local government could create a support center for companion dogs to donate blood. Currently, there is a private support center in Gangwon Province. But if each of the local governments creates and operates a support center, it will be easier for local residents to access the blood donation campaign and to provide blood where it is needed, like the Red Cross. If we have that kind of help, I think it can really help the blood donation campaign to settle down in our country.
The Argus: Is there anything you want to say to the readers of The Argus?
Kang: I want you to know that there are donor dogs and companion dogs that donate blood, and they are not the same. If in the future, when your dog or your friend’s dog is sick, please insist that you would only take blood from a hospital that gives companion dogs’ blood, rather than a hospital that gives donor dogs’ blood. If you advertise our campaign like that, it will become a trend someday and solve the problem of donor dogs. I hope that you keep your eyes wide open for this kind of matter.
In the novel “Never Let Me Go,” nobody eventually helps the human clones. No one escapes or gets treated like real humans. But novels can be rewritten in reality. All you need is just a little bit of attention and action. If you do that, we might live in a world where nobody even knows about the donor dogs in a different way.
By Yoo Chan-heum
Staff Reporter of Global & National Section