The first dog cloned may be an Afghan Hound named Snuppy, but it was actress and singer Barbra Streisand’s cloned dogs that got people talking about replicating canine pets. Some welcomed such a development whilst others said it’s unethical and selfish.
Snuppy, who was cloned in 2005 and died from cancer in 2015, was a product of South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. Streisand’s cloned dogs are from ViaGen Pets in Texas, USA.
What It Takes to Get a Dog Cloned
The first mammal ever cloned was Dolly the sheep (1996). It took 9 years and 1,095 cloned embryos before the first dog clone was born. Since then, pet cloning has become in demand, rising steadily over the years.
Currently, Sooam and ViaGen are the leaders in the pet cloning market. The South Korean company charges $100,000 for their services, while ViaGen can clone a pet dog for just $50,000.
Cloning just a single dog requires many dogs, from the egg donor dogs to the surrogate dogs. A tissue sample is taken from the original dog, typically from the abdomen area, although samples can be taken from the inside of the pet’s cheek.
At Sooam, cloners use egg cells harvested from a couple of canines in heat. Then, the merged cells are zapped with electricity to jumpstart cell division. The resulting embryos are then implanted to a couple of surrogate bitches.
At ViaGen, “employees remove the nucleus from a harvested egg (oocyte) and replace it with one from the pet to be cloned.” After the culture phase, some of the millions of cells remain at the Texas lab, while the others are transferred to their Iowa facility to ensure the cell line of a client’s pet will be safe despite natural disasters.
In both companies, new-born cloned puppies will remain at the facility for 8-12 weeks (or 4 months for overseas clients), after which they will be turned over to their owners.
Although the cloned dogs most often look exactly the same as the original pet, their personalities will be different. That’s because a significant part of personality depends on the puppy’s development in the early months of his life.
What the Anti-Animal Cloning Advocates Say
Opponents of pet cloning technology push forward adoption rather than cloning, as there already are so many dogs in shelters that some of them had to be put down.
“A person whose dog had died, or is dying, and who wants the same dog (appearance-wise) again, can find much less expensive, and less intrusive, ways to do that,” said John Woestendiek, a Pulitzer Prize winner in investigative reporting, in a column. “I will admit, my own ‘one of a kind’ dog has doppelgangers out there who are in need of a home. I know because, as an experiment, I checked.”
He also said that many of the extra clones were left behind at the cloning facilities, “languishing in cages.” This is aside from the fact that it takes many dogs to clone a pet.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said in its policy statement that, “The commercial cloning of animals is an abuse of humanity’s power over the animal world. And, like all abuses of power, it should be prohibited by law.”
Kathleen Conlee, HSUS’ VP for animal research issues, said that there is a high rate of failure in pet cloning as it isn’t an easy process. A report in 2008 showed that “numerous cloned animals died in gestation or birth, and survivors often suffered from pain and health issues.”
According to a Gallup survey in 2017, 63% of Americans consider animal cloning as morally wrong. In 2008, a poll showed 58% of Europeans were against cloning animals for food production.
What Owners of Cloned Dogs Say
Despite the ethical raps on animal cloning, more pet owners are turning to this technology as they see it as a way to enrich their lives in the company of a beloved animal friend.
“I was so devastated by the loss of my dear Samantha, after 14 years together, that I just wanted to keep her with me in some way,” Streisand shared in an interview. “A friend had cloned his beloved dog, and I was very impressed with that dog.”
The actress went on to explain that she had Sammie, a Coton de Tulear, cloned by ViaGen because she could not find another dog of her breed that was also curly haired. “She was the odd one, different, just like I felt as a little girl,” the celebrity revealed.
Although Streisand was happy to learn the cloning process produced 4 dogs, she felt she could only personally care for 2 of them. She gave the other 2 to friends.
“You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul,” she admitted. “Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha . . . and smile.”
Meanwhile, Junichi Fukuda, a 55-year-old man from Tokyo, Japan who oversees a TV commercial production firm, had his beloved black pug Momoko cloned by Sooam.
“She was the best pet in the world for me,” he explained to a reporter. “The reason I was able to work hard and become more successful was because I was together with Momoko, that was how much I loved her.”
Momoko and Fukuda were together for 16 years, which includes the time he went through a divorce. He said that while the clone, Momotan, acts just like Momoko, he knew the latter is “a different dog.”
Would You or Won’t You?
With all that talk on the pros and cons of having a pet dog cloned, it appears that the reasons for using such technology have deep emotional and existential roots.
So, if you were to face the question of having your own pet cloned, would you do it? Share your thoughts with us!
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