Animal blood bank in Spain: How 500 dogs were allegedly drained to death
Spanish prosecutors and animal protection officials shut down a fake veterinarian’s lucrative animal blood business
An employee at the crematorium in Yuncos (Toledo, Spain) was getting suspicious about the man who was dropping off so many dead dogs every 15 days. He started asking questions and soon everyone saw what Luis Miguel V. F. had been hiding for almost 20 years. He was running an illegal animal blood bank supplied by animals he allegedly drained to death. Prosecutors and Civil Guard officials from its animal protection agency (Servicio de Protección de la Naturaleza - SEPRONA) say that these “cruel” deaths were happening on the suspect’s farm in Humanes de Madrid (Spain), where SEPRONA rescued 257 dogs and cats in mid-June.
The animal blood market is small but lucrative. There are no public blood banks for dogs and cats like there are for humans, so a handful of private companies collect donated blood and sell it to veterinary clinics. This is the market the suspect exploited as he built a small empire with dozens of domestic and international clients. Civil Guard officials think that at least 500 animals died in the suspect’s Veterinary Transfusion Center, as his company was called.
Officials investigating the case calculate that the illegal business produced more than US$1 million since it began in 2006. “There are many unanswered questions. We are investigating whether he extracted blood from sick animals and determining the exact number of specimens that could have died here,” said a Civil Guard source. So far, they have determined that 60 animals were drained to death in April and May 2022, mainly dogs and cats. Greyhounds were highly sought after because their blood is very useful and because some greyhound owners get rid of their dogs at the end of the hunting season.
Many of the animals were dropped off at the farm by owners who couldn’t keep or no longer wanted them. “It [the farm] was very well known in certain spheres and for some people, it served as an animal shelter of sorts,” stated the Civil Guard. The investigation will determine if other people were involved in the alleged crimes and how the suspect obtained the drugs for the blood extraction process. There may also be regulatory or control loopholes that the suspect may have exploited for almost 20 years with so much success and renown.
Luis Miguel’s website indicates that the business started in 2006 and has dozens of domestic and international clients. It states, “We permanently have in stock DOG, CAT, and RABBIT hemocomponents, and we can obtain HORSE donors, if needed. One of the website tabs provided numerous links to papers and talks he had supposedly given at specialized conferences, as well as scientific studies on animal fluids. Another section of the website provided an expansive list of clinics that purchased his products. Minutes after our reporters called Luis Miguel to get his side of the story, all the content disappeared from the website. “I’m not going to comment–it’s an open case,” he said before hanging up. In his statement to the judge, Miguel invoked his right not to testify. A Moroccan national and employee at Miguel’s farm was also arrested for suspected participation in illegal activities.
After being alerted by the crematorium employee, Civil Guard investigators intercepted several carcasses for more than a month to corroborate their suspicions. The carcasses were frozen and transported to a specialized Madrid laboratory for autopsy. The autopsy findings were clear–every animal examined had died of hypovolemic shock (due to excessive blood loss). Furthermore, a needle had been inserted directly into the heart to extract as much blood as quickly as possible, according to sources involved in the investigation. “If true, that’s really barbaric. Normal practice is to use the jugular vein or the paws, and draw small amounts of blood every two or three months,” said Cristina Fragio, head of the Clinical Veterinary Hospital at the Complutense University of Madrid. “Since there are so few donors, we always use blood banks like this one. I have used blood from this company and never found anything unusual,” she said.
News of Luis Miguel’s arrest spread like wildfire in the veterinary world, where his arrest has raised enormous concern among his many clients and associates. After learning of the arrest. the Madrid College of Veterinarians immediately moved to distance itself from Miguel. Esther Tortuero, president of its deontology [ethics] committee, said the College has never had any relationship with the suspect. In addition, the College’s legal services team has been ordered to launch a private prosecution against Miguel in court.
The College had never received complaints about the suspect and did not have him under scrutiny since he was not a member. Tortuero says that they have identified two potential irregularities in this case. First, the College is accusing him of “professional usurpation” since he was not a veterinarian, and only licensed veterinary professionals can perform blood extractions. The College also wants to investigate whether any animal welfare regulations were violated. Meanwhile, Cristina Fragio worries that this case could undermine sound veterinary techniques that have “saved many lives.” Luis Miguel was the founder of Spain’s Animal Hematology and Hemotherapy Association, whose mission is to certify laboratories like his own.
Several animal shelters and associations took in the animals rescued from Luis Miguel’s farm in Humanes. Some survived, but freedom came too late for many others that have since died or remain in critical condition. They escaped from the vampire, but not from the effects of his cruel mistreatment.