We love our pets but… cloning?
Two things every pet owner can agree on: we love our pets to the moon and back and their lives are much too short. 2017 was a particularly tough year for us as we lost our 16-year-old Golden Girl in November. I loved my girl with all my heart, she had been a major part of our lives since she was 13 months old, and it broke our hearts to lose her. However, even if it were not cost prohibitive, it would never have occurred to us to clone her. When you accept a pet into your life they become a family member and losing them is just as hard as losing family, but you know this going in, you accept it as the circle of life and you make as many of the moments count as humanly possible. When you see the gray muzzle, notice their much slower gait and the increase in nap times you know that journey has begun.
Have you ever considered cloning? Is it a moral, ethical or religious decision?
Maybe morals, ethics and religion don’t really enter into the decision. Maybe the decision is based solely on the love of your life, your heart dog that makes your life complete just by being part of every day and you can’t bear the thought of losing her. Maybe love and need trump this moral, ethical and/or religious decision.
Cloning is becoming increasingly common. Now that is a statement I truly never thought I would make. Notoriety started with Dolly the sheep and first successful clone. 60 Minutes recently did a story on a world-famous polo player that has cloned his favorite horse -14 times to establish a champion polo team.
How does cloning happen?
The process is called enucleation, which means a healthy egg is injected with the DNA of the dog you want to clone thereby creating a genetic copy of the original dog. The dog’s eggs are harvested from a healthy female during the heat cycle; exact timing is calculated by blood test.
A vet performs a punch biopsy, which means he collects a few pieces of skin. Next, the eggs are changed by removing the nuclei (the part that determines genetics). DNA taken from the dog to be cloned by swabbing the mouth and stomach is inserted in the harvested eggs and electricity is used to stimulate the egg and force dividing. The egg is then placed in the surrogate female dog who carries the egg through embryo to birth. To increase the success rate, more than one egg is implanted, but this also means there may be more than one puppy born. The person financing the procedure is also given the opportunity to adopt the surrogate if desired.
Korean scientists cloned the first dog, Snuffy, an Afghan hound, in 2005. Cloned dogs are a genetic twin to the original and will have many of the same genetic traits. The DNA from the original dog creates a puppy with similar appearance and behavior and while the cost was about $100,000, the success rate was only about 30%.
Fast forward ten years and a company in Texas began cloning dogs for one-half of the price ($50,000). They offer a genetic banking program for $1,600 for the initial genetic preservation and storage costs $150/year. The first dog cloned in the U.S. was Nubia, a Jack Russell Terrier.
Cloning does offer some practical, useful applications. For example, cloning a service dog that was spayed or neutered but has amazing genetic traits.
The success rate is still about 30% and the cost is still substantial. While there are pros and cons to anything, critics say cloning is inhumane since many dog eggs are destroyed in the process. Others say dogs are family members and one would never consider cloning a family member. Those in favor say this is exactly why they want to clone.
What are your thoughts and feelings about this? Is Fifi or Fido destined to have a genetic twin?
A native of Massachusetts and a resident of Georgia where I have lived since 2008 with six rescue dogs, commonly referred to as my merry band of misfits, and one husband. I am proud owner of Best Buddies Dog Training in Hoschton, GA. When not in the training studio, you'll find me in a nursing home, hospital or special needs class with my certified pet therapy dog or recruiting for my pet therapy organization, Happy Tails. I also spend a great deal of time researching the latest information on dog food, health and training techniques and volunteering with local rescues. I have written stories to contribute to Titan's Tales and Other Dog Adoption Love Stories and In Dogs We Trust.