DON’T CLONE YOUR
DOG- OR CAT!
By Dr. Michael W.
sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, mules, horses, deer, cats and mice have been cloned
for commercial and biomedical purposes. In August, 2005, the first dog was
cloned, an Afghan hound, by South Korean researchers at Seoul National
University where earlier, human embryos had been cloned and stem cells
extracted. The surrogate mother of this cloned dog was a yellow Labrador
retriever. One hundred and twenty three dogs were used as both egg donors and
surrogate mothers, and from over 1,000 prepared eggs or ova each containing a
skin cell from a dog's ear, three pregnancies resulted, one ending in a
miscarriage, one resulting in a pup that died soon after birth from respiratory
failure, and the third a viable clone of a male Afghan hound. Some bioethicists
fear that the cloning of man's best friend is the final stepping stone to
eventual public acceptance of human cloning.
entails taking a single cell from an animal and placing the cell inside the egg
case or ovum taken from another animal of the same species, that has been
emptied of its contents. After a procedure that activates the cell to begin to
divide, the ovum containing the cloning cell is placed in the uterus of a
hormonally receptive surrogate animal. Because of low success rates in getting
the cloned cells to implant into the uterine wall, and because the placenta and
embryo may not develop normally, several ova containing the clone cells may be
put into the surrogate animal's uterus at the same time.
taking a beloved dog or cat to the veterinarian for a routine health check will
have a few cells removed, quickly frozen, and shipped for storage at a Pet
Cloning Center. A processing and
storage fee will be charged, and when the owners want their companion
animals to be cloned, the Center will
begin the process after a substantial down payment has been made, or full
payment has been provided. Before this new biotechnology is perfected and
large-scale operations set up with hundreds, possibly thousands, of caged and
hormonally manipulated female dogs and cats serving as ova donors, and others being
the recipients of ova containing the to-be-cloned pets' cells, the cost will
probably be in the six-figure range for some time before mass-production
follows mass-demand. But there are many concerns other than financial:
cloned dogs will not be exact replicas of peoples' beloved animal companions,
and many clones will probably be spontaneously aborted, or have to be destroyed
because of various birth defects. Abnormalities may also develop later in life.
Clones of other species often have abnormal internal organs, neurological and
immunological problems, and may be abnormally large at birth due to a defective
growth-regulating gene function. What about the origins, quality of life and
future of the thousands of caged female dogs
who will be exploited by the pet cloning industry, and the procedural
risks to their health and overall welfare?
Do the ends justify the
means? There is no evident benefit to the animals themselves.
Why not adopt from an
animal shelter a dog or puppy who looks like the one you miss or might be
passing on soon, who needs a good home; or donate money, equivalent to what it
would cost to produce one clone, toward improving the welfare of hundreds, even
thousands of dogs, and other
animals in communities around the world?
What are these ends anyway? Certainly
there is a commercial end that is potentially lucrative, given the right market
promotion and endorsements by professionals and celebrities.
But is there real human benefit in
making a clone of one's beloved canine
companion? Or is it mere pandering to a
misguided sentimentalism? Because of
the close emotional bond between humans and their animal companions, the pet
cloning business I see as an unethical exploitation of the bond for pecuniary
ends. Exact replicas of peoples' dogs cannot be guaranteed, and will not likely
be created because an identical environment during embryonic and postnatal
development cannot be achieved. All clones may, at the time of birth, be of the
same chronological age as the age of the cells taken from the to-be cloned
animals. So if a cell is taken from a six-year-old dog, because of the aging
"clock", the clone may already be aged by six years at the time it is
various religious and
spiritual perspectives and beliefs, cloning violates the sanctity of life and
the integrity of divine or natural creative processes. It is problematic from
the point of view of
reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul.
From a Buddhist perspective, the consciousness incarnate in the body of
the clone, or the consciousnesses in the bodies of many clones from the same
original animal, are all going to be different from the original donor.
It is not inconceivable that dog
clones might also be created initially on an experimental basis, and used to
provide spare parts such as kidneys, hearts, hips, and knees for ailing
dogs. Research laboratories may also
use cloning to quickly develop identical sets of dogs and other animals for
biomedical research. Some sets and lines of clones having the same genetically
engineered anomalies to serve as high fidelity models of various human diseases
may be created and marketed to develop new and profitable drugs to treat these
conditions in humans and other animals.
The bioethics and medical validity of
these developments need to be examined. And pet owners who put out the money to
have their animal companions cloned may want to think twice, since they may
well be giving this new cloning business not only a financial jump start, but
also the socio-political credibility that it needs in order to gain widespread
public acceptance, and a market for human cloning and for other biologically
anomalous and ethically dubious products and processes.
The fact that a venture capitalist
made a grant of $2.3 million and hired
an agent to find a university biotech.
laboratory already in the cloning business to clone his dog Missy
) and the subsequent public
relations and media promotion of this project, points to another agenda: The
cloning of pets may be a ploy to promote human cloning. If the cloning of pets
becomes a reality,
the public will become desensitized to the issue of cloning and more likely to
eventually accept a highly lucrative biotechnology for childless couples and
rich and selfish singles for the cloning of complete human beings, and of
partial human beings (such as anencephalics or headless clones) as a source of
replacement tissues and organ parts.
The Philosophy Department at Texas
A&M University, where the Missyplicity Project was started in another
department before being spun off into a private company "Genetics, Savings
and Clone" developed a set of “bioethical guidelines” based on the ethical
principle of what they call axiomatic anthropocentrism. This strategy was
clearly designed to deflect public criticism and concern over the morality and
animal welfare aspects of the Project. Axiomatic anthropocentrism essentially
means whatever is good for people is
ethically acceptable. Anthropocentrism --- human centeredness --- is an
outmoded worldview or paradigm that many advocates of animal rights and
environmental protection see as the root cause of untold animal suffering and
ecological devastation over the millennia.
female dogs were put up for adoption on the web site, one of the company's
"bioethical principles" being that regardless of the source through
which dogs are obtained for use as egg donors or surrogate mothers,( from animal
shelters, breeding, farms, etc), at
the completion of their role in the Missyplicity Project, all dogs shall be
placed in loving homes. No funds shall be expended for dogs raised under
inhumane conditions, such as puppy mills.
Missyplicity Project included several
goals in addition to the cloning of Missy that were published on the web site.
These included dozens, perhaps hundreds, of scientific papers on canine
reproductive physiology; enhanced reproduction and repopulation of endangered wild
canids; plans to develop improved canine contraceptive and sterilization
methods as a way of preventing the millions of unwanted dogs who are euthanized
in America every year; to clone exceptional dogs of high societal value,
especially search-and-rescue dogs; and develop low-cost commercial dog-cloning
services for the general public.
goals gave the Project the kind of credibility that a gullible public and
organizations and professionals with a limited grasp of the inherent
limitations and harmful consequences of cloning, would readily accept. Ethical
concerns and the questions concerning the validity and relevance of applying
cloning biotechnology to wildlife conservation, to dog overpopulation, and to
the propagation of high performance dogs were cleverly deflected by these
Genetic Savings and Clone, the
commercial spin-off from the
at Texas A&M University,
launched “Operation CopyCat” in 2000.
estimated that the price for
cloning a cat or dog would drop to $25,000 within
three years. They never
succeeded in cloning a dog, and eventually out of business,
but a northern California
biotech company, BioArts International created several
cloned cats for sale at $
50,000 each that turned out to be a commercial flop.
Undaunted, BioArts linked
with the disgraced* cloning scientist Hwang Woo Suk
who had succeeded in cloning
dogs in Korea, in an effort to market cloned dogs in
the US in 2008. BioArts
International set up a public auction to clone five dogs for
willing customers, with bids
starting at $100,000! In another publicity stunt, this
company offered owners a free
chance to have their dogs cloned, and chose the
German shepherd rescue dog
who worked in the rubble of the 9/11 terrorist attack
at the World Trade Center in New
York city, as the ‘most
UPDATE Nov 2018
CLONING YOUR CAT OR DOG: AN
ETHICAL OR SELFISH DECISION?
As of 2018, Cedar Park,
Texas-based ViaGen Pet& Equine Co. has been cloning horses and livestock
for 17 years. The company began cloning pet dogs and cats in 2015. It is
purportedly only company in the world that is cloning cats for pet owners and
the only company in the United States that is cloning pet dogs. The company has
also cloned cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and white-tailed deer.
ViaGen Pets’ fee to the client
for genetic preservation is $1600, with
an annual storage fee of $150 after the first year. In addition, veterinary
practices charge the client for their expertise in collecting the biopsy
samples. Beyond these initial charges, cloning a dog costs $50,000; a cat,
$25,000; and a horse, $85,000. There are a few hundred cloned dogs around now
and there is a wait list. The current wait list to start the cloning process in
dogs is about 2 months. For cats, the wait list is about 6 months.
Alice Villalobos, DVM, former
president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics and a pioneer in the
field of cancer care for companion animals, looks favorably on the prospects of
pet cloning: “As a veterinary oncologist also focused on palliative care and
hospice for dogs and cats, I see how this could become a
more accessible opportunity for those who want to have an option for a
continuum with a genetically similar pet who they are on the verge of losing.
I’ve had cloned dogs as patients and the owners are very happy with their
decision,” said the California veterinarian.
John Woestendiek, a Pulitzer
prize–winning investigative reporter and author of Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny
Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, has some negative opinions about pet
cloning. In an interview with Scientific American, Woestendiek said, “An
argument can be made that dog cloning is not only adding to the dog
overpopulation problem, but causing a lot of pain and suffering along the way.”4
He views cloning “as an insult to the original dog—the equivalent of saying ‘I
can easily (assuming I am wealthy enough) have another you created.’ The fact
is you can’t. And it seems unfair to the clone as well, in terms of the
expectations the dog owner will likely have for it.”
As to the ethics of
veterinarians in pet cloning, James A. Serpell, PhD, professor of Animal Ethics
& Welfare at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of
Pennsylvania calls for people to be informed and to think twice.The most
serious issue, according to Dr. Serpell, is when “people are made to believe
that the animal they get back will be a replica of the original pet. That’s a
huge mistake. They may be genetically identical, but a lot can happen after
conception. It’s classic nature versus nurture, and with dogs and cats an awful
lot is nurture.”
Cloning may help save
endangered species but all to what pathetic end but another step toward virtual
reality devoid of virtue by virtue of morally inverted, self-serving values and
2008 Sep 1;70(4):638-47. Epub 2008 Jun 4. Links
Cloning endangered gray
wolves (Canis lupus) from somatic cells collected postmortem.
Department of Theriogenology
and Biotechnology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University,
Seoul 151-742, Republic of Korea.
The objective of the present
study was to investigate whether nuclear transfer of postmortem wolf somatic
cells into enucleated dog oocytes, is a feasible method to produce a cloned
wolf. In vivo-matured oocytes (from domestic dogs) were enucleated and fused
with somatic cells derived from culture of tissue obtained from a male gray
wolf 6h after death. The reconstructed embryos were activated and transferred
into the oviducts of naturally synchronous domestic bitches. Overall, 372
reconstructed embryos were transferred to 17 recipient dogs; four recipients
(23.5%) were confirmed pregnant (ultrasonographically) 23-25 d after embryo
transfer. One recipient spontaneously delivered two dead pups and three
recipients delivered, by cesarean section, four cloned wolf pups, weighing 450,
190, 300, and 490g, respectively. The pup that weighed 190g died within 12h
after birth. The six cloned wolf pups were genetically identical to the donor
wolf, and their mitochondrial DNA originated from the oocyte donors. The three
live wolf pups had a normal wolf karyotype (78, XY), and the amount of
telomeric DNA, assessed by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization, was
similar to, or lower than, that of the nuclear donor. In conclusion, the
present study demonstrated the successful cloning of an endangered male gray
wolf via interspecies transfer of somatic cells, isolated postmortem from a wolf,
and transferred into enucleated dog oocytes. Therefore, somatic cell nuclear
transfer has potential for preservation of canine species in extreme
situations, including sudden death.
* Woo Suk was still under
indictment for embezzling research funds in Korea, and for violating ethics
laws in the course of acquiring hundreds of eggs from women for his cloning
research, when his business association with BioArts international was made.
For additional information about genetic engineering,
cloning, and the creation of transgenic animals, see: M. W. Fox (2004) Killer
Foods: When Scientists Manipulate
Genes, Better is Not Always Best. New York: The Lyons Press; and, M. W. Fox
(2001) Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.