(PETS/ANIMAL SCIENCE) So maybe your animal, who was of course the best animal in the whole world, died, and you’d do anything to bring them back. You heard about cloning–it was so long ago that Dolly was cloned (1996, but announced 1997) that by now they should be able to clone your best friend with ease.
In fact, plenty of dogs and cats and other animals have been cloned around the world. But let’s look at some facts about the pet cloning industry…
1. If your pet has died more than a few days ago, it is too late to save their cells for cloning. For those who are thinking about cloning, more people are opting to do a biopsy on their living pet to preserve the cells in the event of their death, or in the event that cloning becomes more affordable.
2. Prices fluctuate but it can cost $50,000-$150,000 to clone a dog and $35,000 to clone a cat, at least.
3. You don’t know if you will get zero, one, five, or more new pets. So you better have space for ten!
4. BioArts (defunct) has an international patent cloning cats, dogs, and endangered species. Competitor RNL Bio is accused of violating patent law.
5. For each cloned dog, it is required to do invasive surgery on many dogs as surrogate mothers and several egg donors. Exactly 123 surrogate mothers hosted blastocysts with DNA from an Afghan hound who would be the first dog ever to be successfully cloned. Three puppies were born, and only one survived. BioArts CEO Lou Hawthorne said it takes 12 donors and surrogates and ovum donors on average and up to 80 to make one puppy.
6. Because there are so many miscarriages and unhealthy and deformed clones born, you may find yourself experiencing the death of your pet all over again before you even could even appreciate their life.
7. Your companion won’t come back. You will get a genetic twin. Just like an identical twin, except they will have a very different life, and that will affect their personality to some extent. For example, Chance was a very sweet and docile bull. When his family cloned him and created Second Chance, the new bull was aggressive and put his human in the hospital twice. (Although he did mellow out with age.) Your clone may not even look like the original. Cloning is so unpredictable that your new animal even be genetically different than the original, for unknown reasons. According to the BioArts Press Release on why they are leaving the dog cloning industry:
Unfortunately, in addition to producing and delivering numerous perfectly healthy dog clones, we’ve also seen several strange anomalies in cloned offspring. One clone – which was supposed to be black and white – was born greenish-yellow where it should have been white. Others have had skeletal malformations, generally not crippling though sometimes serious and always worrisome. One clone of a male donor was actually born female (we still have no good explanation for how that happened).
8. Dog cloning takes place primarily in Korea, and the surrogate mother dogs they use are then sold back to dog meat farms, where they live in deplorable conditions and are eventually eaten. (Link to dog meat trade article: beware of very sad dogs!) BioArts ensured that all the dogs used as surrogates and ovum donors were adopted out, but it was very expensive as Korea does not have a tradition or infrastructure of pet adoption and they often had to be shipped elsewhere. BioArts is no longer in operation. RNL Bio still uses meat dogs. (Only a minority of Koreans eat dog meat.)
9. Joyce McKinney, who was the first person to purchase dog clones says that “cloning ruined my life, you know, it ruined my life.” It is too much work for her to care for 5 very sick dogs, plus her other dogs.
11. Lou Hawthorne, who started the pet cloning industry with his mother’s partner John Sperling, has discontinued his efforts due to financial and ethical concerns. He says, “A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others.”
12. There is some disagreement on this number, but according to ASPCA approximately 2.7 million animals are killed in U.S. shelters each year. You could save one of nearly any breed, age, and location using Petfinder, or Global Animal’s Adopt a Pet Search. I’m not blaming the existence of millions of unwanted pets on just a very small number of clones out there, but I’m saying that if you are emotional about living without an animal, it feels very good to save one!
In fiction, particularly in futures such as The Island, Never Let Me Go, and The House of the Scorpion, the issues with cloning are always social in cause, i.e. clones are exploited for their organs considered lesser people for no good reason. In real life, the personal pets who are cloned are dearly loved by dedicated humans. However, as you can see, there is just too much suffering involved in the creation of clones for it to be a good choice for animal lovers.
If you still like the idea of cloning your pet, get a plush replica Cuddle Clone instead!
About the Author: Kristin Hugo is a current student of the Science Journalism Master’s Program at Boston University. She has a degree in Journalism from California State University, Northridge, and is a former intern at Global Animal. Her blog, Strange Biology, focuses on anomalous animals, mutants, bioethics, and mad science, and can be found at StrangeBio.com. Kristin’s book, based on the blog, is sold at CetiPublishing.com.