A nonprofit in California that runs a blood bank for dogs will survive despite losing its quest for a state sales tax exemption. Hemopet's lawyer said Wednesday that he is certain the bank will continue to operate, “no ifs, ands or buts.”
The confidence expressed by attorney Charles Berman, who is the husband of Hemopet founder Dr. W. Jean Dodds, is a turnaround from earlier statements by the couple that the blood bank was in danger of closing if it wasn’t excused from paying $81,000 in back taxes sought by the state Board of Equalization.
The organization’s predicament prompted supporters to circulate calls on social media for donations and political support, and generated multiple news articles, such as a Veterinary Practice News report on Aug. 16 headlined, “Tax issue threatens canine blood bank.” The article quotes Berman saying, “We don’t have the finances.”
But on Wednesday, Berman told the VIN News Service, “We are 1,000 percent going to stay in business.” Asked how the organization is managing financially in light of its earlier comments, he replied: “It’s private. I’m not going to tell you.”
Berman also indicated that Hemopet would continue pressing the tax issue with the state. He spoke by telephone from Italy, where he said he is traveling for the next several weeks and was available to answer only a few quick questions.
Hemopet came close to being freed from collecting tax on sales of blood products late last month, when the California Legislature passed SB 898 to exempt nonprofit animal blood banks from sales and use taxes.
At least at the outset, the exemption would have applied only to Hemopet, which is the only nonprofit animal blood bank in the state. A second, larger animal blood bank in California, American Blood Resources International, is a for-profit business that opposed the bill, calling it discriminatory. The legislation was introduced by state Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Republican representing the Orange County district where Hemopet is a constituent. The bill originally exempted all animal blood banks, but the language was amended later to exempt nonprofits only.
Ultimately, the details didn't matter. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill last week along with six others that would have given new tax breaks or expanded existing ones. In a veto message dated Sept. 13, Brown wrote, “… tax breaks are the same as new spending — they both cost the General Fund money. As such, they must be considered during budget deliberations so that all spending proposals are weighed against each other at the same time. This is even more important when the state’s budget remains precariously balanced.”
Before Brown’s decision on the bill, Hemopet asked supporters to send the governor letters requesting his support. A sample letter it provided intimated that without the exemption, animal blood banking nationally would be endangered: “The survival of animal blood bank services which are akin to the American Red Cross services provided for humans in California and the whole United States is dependent on this bill becoming the law of California.”
Hemopet is regarded as one of the largest animal blood banks in the country but its exact size is unclear. The organization maintains that it provides 40 percent of the total dog blood supply, while others in the industry estimate Hemopet's contribution at closer to 20 percent. Other blood banks provide blood for cats and other species in addition to dogs. As a nonprofit, Hemopet is unusual among animal blood banks, which more commonly operate as for-profit entities.