PETA protests outside judicial center in Seymour

PETA protests outside of the Jackson County Judicial Center demanding County Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant prosecute the Veterinarian’s Blood Bank in Vallonia for neglect after allegations dating back to last year. From left are Chelsea-Swinford Johantges, Jan Sipes, Donna Zeiber, Joel Bartlett and Amy Stewart.

Erika Malone | The Tribune

JACKSON COUNTY — About a dozen protesters affiliated with the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), stood outside the Jackson County Judicial Center on Thursday afternoon demanding county Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant prosecute the Veterinarian’s Blood Bank in Vallonia for neglect of two cats in the facility.

PETA gathered claims, during a seven-month undercover investigation last year, that more than 900 animals are living in severely crowded pens and the company is drawing blood from animals who were elderly, sick and being denied adequate veterinary care.

PETA’s complaint to state and local officials sparked an investigation that led to unannounced inspections performed by a veterinarian with the Indiana Board of Animal Health and a detective with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. During the inspection of the dog and cat facility of the animal blood bank they found it housed approximately 340 dogs and 581 cats.

Following the results of the investigation, the cats owned and cared for the Veterinarian’s Blood Bank were found to be receiving care sufficient to provide for their health and no immediate jeopardy issues were noted.

The dogs owned and cared for in the facility were in, or near, normal body condition and had adequate food, water and shelter. The state veterinarian did report, however, that the facility needed to provide improved dental care for some dogs, improved flooring for dog pens, seal areas of rust and add a sanitation process to cleaning of dog food bowls.

In a recent report, Chalfant said given that PETA, with its high level of concern for animals, approves of appropriate animal blood donations, and the state investigator found the level of care provided to the dogs and cats was adequate, no crimes have occurred at the dog and cat facilities operated by the Veterinarian’s Blood Bank.

PETA campaigner Racheli Holstein said everyone that came to protest are from all over the state.

“Whether its a two-hour, three-hour drive or more this turn out shows the dedication we have to stopping the neglect of animals at the Veterinarian’s Blood Bank,” she said.

Protesters were there to recognize two cats that were under investigation for neglect, Fox and Vivi.

PETA claims Fox had been suffering from bloody diarrhea and allegedly did not receive a veterinary exam or treatment until PETA’s investigator adopted the 13-year-old cat. After a few weeks, PETA reported Fox was euthanized after a veterinarian found he had gastrointestinal cancer.

PETA claims Vivi suffered from a mouth infection and was given dental treatment. The PETA investigator offered to adopt the cat; however, the manager allegedly refused the offer for months until they admitted the cat’s mouth condition had increasingly deteriorated.

Holstein said PETA advocates for community blood donations, obtaining blood only from dogs and cats who live in homes from family members and are volunteered by their guardians for periodic donations.

“I have talked to my veterinarian to urge them to obtain blood from community blood donations instead of a warehouse,” Holstein said. “This mostly applies to vet hospitals instead of clinics as most clinics do not provide blood transfusion services.”

Laura Shields, the director of corporate responsibility at PETA, came from Bloomington and stood with her mother, father, and her baby, Cedar, to fight against what Shields describes as “abysmal conditions” from the blood bank. This was also Cedar’s “first demo outside of the womb.”

The dozen protestors stood in the drizzling rain chanting, “No excuse for animal abuse, cats neglected and in despair, Jeffrey Chalfant don’t you care, what do we want? Prosecute the blood bank now.”