Pet Cloning - Dogs
Why I Thought about Dog Cloning
You’ve probably heard about pet cloning. I’d heard a little about it, but when my wonderful dog, Hamlet, was diagnosed with untreatable bone cancer, I researched it. In my grief, I figured if I could find a way to get the money, I could have my furbaby cloned and have a brand new puppy that was just like my beloved companion that died. Sounds good, right? Yeah, I thought so, too, when I was so devastated at the thought of never seeing Hamlet again. I thought if I could have my dog cloned, he could, in a way, live forever. When the second Hammie got old or infirm, I could have him cloned, too. And so on and so on, until I was deceased and no longer needed a super special pooch in my life. As I was researching, however, I was faced with some surprising facts, along with some sobering and thought-provoking information and ideas. If you’ve ever considered the possibility of having your pet cat or dog cloned, you might enjoy this article.
Cloning – The Science
Animal cloning isn’t as new as you might think. The first “cloning” was actually “twinning” and was completed in 1885 with a sea urchin. In 1902, A German biologist named Hans Spemann manipulated salamander embryos and created twins. Similar experiments were conducted on frogs, with mixed outcomes.
The first real example of cloning was also done with frogs. In 1958, cells from a donor frog were transplanted into the eggs of a female frog, and the resulting tadpoles were found to have the exact same genetic blueprint as the donor animal. Obviously, this was exciting news for the scientific community, and others were ready to jump on board the cloning bandwagon.
Although in 1975, rabbit cells were successfully transferred and developed partially, they soon died. It wasn’t until 1984 when cloning a mammal via nuclear transfer was successful, when three lambs were born in the UK. Sadly, none of the offspring survived to reach adulthood.
You might be more familiar with “Dolly,” the sheep that was successfully cloned in 1996, which made world news. Dolly was the first mammal to have been produced by transferring a cell from an adult donor animal. Before, cells from embryos had been used, but with Dolly, somatic cells from an adult were used in the process. A somatic cell, by the way, is a cell that isn’t an egg cell or a sperm cell. These cells can come from anywhere else in the body, and in the case of Dolly’s donor, the cells came from the adult sheep’s udder. The scientists working on this project tried almost 300 times before they got an embryo to fully develop, which brings up a big problem with cloning. I’ll touch on that later.
I Cloned My Dead Dog:
Can I Have My Dog Cloned?
If you have the money and have planned ahead, you can have your pet cloned. And, in fact, you don’t actually even need to plan ahead. According to my research, the only company that does commercial pet cloning now is Sooam Biotech Laboratory, which is located in South Korea. The cost is usually around $100,000.
The first successful dog cloning occurred at Seoul National University, in 2005. “Snuppy,” an Afghan hound, was created under the direction of Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, who now heads Sooam Biotech. Over 500 puppy clones have been produced. Buyers have included people from around the world – royalty, celebrities, American veterinarians, and “regular” people.
Some pet owners look ahead to having their dogs cloned, while the animal is still alive. Cells are taken, and for a fee, they’re stored for future use. Grief-stricken dog owners can harvest cells from their pet even after death. Usually, the owner is instructed to store the dog’s body in a refrigerator – not in a freezer – and have a veterinarian harvest the required tissue. The tissue is then sent to Sooam, where it can be stored safely until it’s time to be used. The window of opportunity to get usable cells is normally about five days after death.
Will My Cloned Dog Be Just Like the One that Died?
Essentially, a cloned dog will not be just like the one that died. Yes, it will have the same genetic makeup, but it won’t be the same in personality. To give you a better idea, consider identical human twins. They may look just alike, but they can be very different in temperament, personality, and behavior. In light of that, it’s better to think of a cloned pet as the first animal’s twin instead of the resurrection of the original. In fact, a cloned animal and its donor won’t be quite as similar as identical twins are because of differences in the mitochondrial DNA.
Furthermore, the huge question of nature versus nurture comes into play. Almost everything that happens to a puppy in its first few weeks of life helps to shape its personality and make it into the dog it will become. There is no way all that can be replicated in a laboratory.
Hamlet was a handsome dog, and having him cloned would have provided me with a puppy that would have grown up to be just as attractive, but the new arrival wouldn’t be the same. Chances are very slim that the clone would develop the same wonderful personality that Hamlet had, and let’s face it – it’s the original personality and little quirks that make us fall in love with our pets.
The Ethics of Cloning
While researching pet cloning, I was forced to consider the ethics involved. Even if I had the extra cash lying around, which I didn’t, could I justify spending so much to have Hamlet cloned? As much as I’d love to have a carbon copy of my beloved dog, I don’t think I could go through with having him cloned. Such a sum would go a long way in feeding and rescuing other dogs.
And speaking of rescuing dogs, if you’ve lost a cherished pet and want to get another one, why not consider adopting one from an animal rescue or shelter? According to the ASPCA, over a million unwanted dogs are euthanized each year in the United States. That number doesn’t even take into account the number of canines who starve to death, homeless dogs that die from accidents, or unwanted dogs and puppies who are killed by their owners. That’s a startling statistic, but you can help by adopting an unwanted pet and providing it with a loving, forever home.
Dogs living in research facilities like some of the ones used for cloning animals live horrible lives. It has been reported that some have to spend years in cramped cages, with many suffering from illnesses. South Korea doesn’t exactly have a great reputation when it comes to the treatment of animals, and there is little oversight in their animal-testing. Once the dogs have been “used up,” they often end up as meat.
Dog cloning isn’t an exact science. Many attempts fail, and for the embryos that survive to full term, the puppies are often born with serious health problems and deformities. What happens to these puppies? Almost assuredly, they’re disposed of quickly. Is it ethical to create so many dogs just to have them killed soon after they’re born?
Is Animal Cloning Always Bad?
I’m not saying that animal cloning is always bad. In fact, I think in some instances, it might be the only way to ensure the future of some species. Here, I’m referring to animals that are endangered or are on the brink of extinction. If cloning is the only way to rescue species like the South China tiger, the Javan rhinoceros, the Western Lowland gorilla, and the leatherback turtle, shouldn’t it be done? The complete disappearance of these magnificent creatures would be a tragedy.
Cloning certain farm animals can have advantages, too. Let’s say a dairyman has a cow that produces much more milk than the rest of the herd. If he could have her cloned, he could increase the overall milk production of his dairy. What if a particular farm animal had natural immunity to diseases, for some reason? Would it be advantageous to produce more such livestock?
What about animal cloning to help cure human diseases? For example, entire litters of canines can be manipulated to be born with human conditions like diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. Using such animals, scientists might be able to find a cure for these illnesses in humans. But is it right to purposely cause sick animals to be born? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
When done properly and humanely and for the right reasons, I believe animal cloning has its advantages. If it helps reduce or eliminate suffering from diseases, it might be okay. If animal cloning can create livestock that more efficiently converts grass to milk or meat for humans, it might be one way to reduce world hunger.
I can certainly see how animal cloning can be beneficial, but overall, I don’t like the idea of mankind’s “playing God.” In fact, I find the thought more than a little disturbing. There’s already been talk about creating a mammoth. Surely, at some point, some scientist will decide to try to produce a dinosaur. What would happen then? And what about cloning human beings? Is that going to happen in the future?
My Cloned Dog
No, I don’t have a clone of Hamlet, but I do have his nephew, Shylock, and Shy is very much like his uncle – not so much in appearance – but in temperament and personality. Shy-Shy is black, while Hamlet was fawn, but it’s amazing how much Shylock acts like Hammie did. We often refer to Shylock as “Hamlet’s clone.” Hamlet was neutered when he was young, but I lived to regret that decision. Had I known what an amazing dog he’d grow up to be, I would never had had him “fixed.” Of course, by that time, it was too late, and the surgery couldn’t be reversed. And by the time Hamlet was getting old, both his parents were dead, so there was no way for me to get a full brother or sister.
Fortunately, when my youngest daughter and her husband saw what a wonderful dog Hamlet was, they purchased his full sister, from a later litter. They named her “Kayla,” and she turned out to be an amazing pet, too. We had Kayla bred and kept three of the puppies. That way, we’d at least have canines from the same bloodlines that produced Hamlet and Kayla.
The puppies arrived at a time when our three adult Danes, Hamlet, Kayla, and Grendel, were getting up in age. It’s funny how the three offspring are so much like the older dogs. Brutus, the pup, is a lot like Grendel, even though Grendel was from a completely different bloodline. Brutus is big, goofy, always happy, and a super chow hound, just like Grendel was. The female pup, Layla, is startlingly like her mother – very sweet, calm, and a little shy. And as I already mentioned, Shylock has turned out to share many of Hamlet’s traits. He’s affectionate, smart, proud, serious, and protective.
Last Word on Pet Cloning
Obviously, it’s not my place to tell you what to do. And believe me – if you’ve lost or are anticipating the loss of a beloved dog, I understand the longing and emptiness you feel now or know that you will experience once your dog dies. Hamlet has been gone for almost three months, and I still cry over him every day. I would give almost anything to have him back, but I’d want him back, and not some copy. In my humble opinion, pet cloning is not the answer. Mourn your loss for as long as you need to, then let your grief go and try to focus on the happiness your pet provided. If you loved a dog so much, you’re exactly the type of person who needs to give and receive love from another pet. Why support the cloning industry with megabucks when you can find a new furry friend at a shelter or rescue – one who desperately needs someone just like you?
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