Monday, May 9, 2011

Pet Cloning - The State of the Industry

Whatever happened to pet cloning? As early as 2005, there were a number of news stories about dog cloning and cat cloning. Animal cloning had been old news for nearly a decade by then, with the revolutionary cloning of Dolly the sheep in Scotland, of course, but Snuppy was the first pet, a dog, to be cloned. Cloned by scientists at a Korean University, Snuppy would have seemed to be a harbinger of a new revolution in animal breeding. However, the pet cloning market has been quite cool in the five years since the Snuppy announcement. Here, we review the state of the pet cloning industry.

Since the cloning of Snuppy, there have been a number of very successful clonings of pets and other animals. Lou Hawthorne started BioArts while cloning his beloved mixed breed dog Missy. Hawthorne was very pleased with the results of the cloning, producing three successful clones that were very alike to the original in character and behavior. In January, 2009, a Florida couple, Ed and Nina Otto, announced that they had paid to have their Golden Retriever Lancelot cloned by BioArts. They also were very pleased with the results.

Still, response to the cloning has been cool. When Hawthorne ran a contest to have people clone their favorite pet, he was surprised to find that less than 250 people entered the contest. In addition, Hawthorne found that BioArts' prices were undercut by Korean competition. While the Ottos were very pleased with "Lancey," their pet clone, it was difficult for anyone not to note the prohibitive cost they paid: $155,000 USD. In addition, many people object to the idea of cloning pets when there are many animals being euthanized every day at animal shelters around the world. There are also issues with some abnormalities in the cloning process.

All of this is not to say that pet cloning is not very different from many other technologies that simply took a while to catch on. Some issues are outlined below, along with a discussion of how those issues might improve in the coming years.

    * The price problem. All new technology is overpriced. For example, personal computers were not very affordable at first. Only after the manufacturing process was streamlined was it possible for every household to have a computer. How much room there will be for organizations to reduce the price point on pet cloning without broad demand is of course questionable.

    * People resist change. This is especially true when it comes to tampering with living things, in this case beloved pets. Yet, we have "tampered" for a long time in breeding pets and domestic animals. In fact, controlling the genetics of domesticated animals and pets is accepted practice that people pay top dollar for. Organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) object to pet breeding. PETA claims that the American Kennel Club adds to the pet overpopulation problem by encouraging breeding pure bred dogs. Still, pet lovers pay for purebreds, and this is well accepted by mainstream society.

    * Demand may always be an issue. There are many great dogs and cats that can be found at the local dog pound or given away for "free to good homes" in classified ads. However, there is no limit to the value people place on a beloved pet or even on a sure thing. The Ottos are a good example of that, as is the practice of buying purebreds. If people can purchase a dog or cat with predictable behaviours and characteristics there is implicit value in that. There is a predictable market here, though it may always be limited in size.

While pet cloning has not taken off as some had hoped, it's clear that it will become a bigger market in the future and it will be increasingly viable for people to try this out. With the inevitable successes that cloned pet owners will have, the practice will become more widely accepted and it seems inevitable that there is a future for cloned dogs and cats.

John Huinink is the owner of a resource with a variety of information about cloning including pet cloning controversies, pet cloning services, the first cloned dog and more.
Article Source:

Pet Cloning Data

- Cryopreservation of dog semen for breeding, and of cells for possible future cloning. In San Marcos, California. 
- Thorough overview of the genome sequence as defined by the Broad Institute, including maps and clone registry.
- A project to develop resources necessary to map and clone canine genes. 
- Using a new technique, scientists have cloned clones from clones. [Scientific American]


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