Whether you think of your dog as a best friend, a surrogate child, or just a pet, it’s hard to deal with the fact that they’re only around for a short time. Traditionally, people have coped with the loss of their dog by getting a puppy of the same breed. But now, science is allowing bereaved dog owners to take it a creepy step further by purchasing a genetic replica of the dearly departed.
For better or worse, dog cloning is now a reality. Granted, you can’t yet order a clone from Petco or schedule a cloning session with your vet. However, with a little research and a lot of cash, you can get a clone of your dog today (well, not literally today – it takes a few months).
You can, but should you? It sounds great in theory, but if you remember the movie Pet Semetary, you know that there’s usually a catch to these things. In this case, there are several catches. Here are a few facts that might put a damper on your enthusiasm to make a copy of your furry friend.
The price tag is around $100,000
Right now, there’s only one company offering dog cloning to the public, and they charge upwards of $100,000 for the service. That’s why you usually hear about dog cloning in the context of some nutty celebrity or eccentric millionaire. Most people would have to sell their home to come up with that kind of cash.
Even if you can afford it, your nagging conscience might keep you from writing the check. For that much money, you could pay for food, boarding and vet care for hundreds of homeless dogs waiting to be adopted at shelters. And then, of course, there are people reading this and thinking that donating to a shelter is wasteful when there are so many humans in need of help.
The cost of pet cloning figures to drop in the future. But until that time, paying such a large sum to have your dog copied will seem like a bit of a douche move to many people.
There’s a lot of “trial and error” involved
The reason cloning is so expensive is that there’s no foolproof method to make it work. It’s not like a sci-fi story where someone punches a few buttons, mumbles some pseudo-scientific jargon, and out pops a perfect copy from the cloning machine. Scientists are still working out the kinks of dog cloning, and it often takes many failed attempts before a viable copy is produced.
But that’s their problem, right? As long as you’re willing to pay them for their time, the details aren’t something you have to worry about.
Animal rights groups would beg to differ. They say that all that “trial and error” leads to considerable misery for the animals involved in the process. Many clones (ie, puppies) are sickly and die soon after birth. Others have grotesque abnormalities and are put down. This was one of the reasons cited by the biotech company BioArts International when it announced it was dropping out of the dog cloning business in 2009.
Cloned dogs don’t look or act exactly like the original
This is the point that people tend to find most surprising and disappointing. What attracts many to the idea of cloning is the idea of having an exact copy of a dog, including all the things that make it unique. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
In the cloning process, an embryo based solely on the original dog’s DNA is implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother (typically a dog of the same breed). Even though the surrogate dog doesn’t chip in any genetic material, it can influence how the embryo develops – which in turn can determine certain outward traits. Thus, while the clone should strongly resemble the original, it’s still pretty likely that you’ll be able to tell the difference just by looking.
More importantly, the clone won’t have the same personality as the old dog. While many personality traits are inherited, many others develop through experience. Even if you strive to treat the new dog exactly the same, there are many factors outside your control that go into the personality stew.
Does Logic Matter?
Add it all up, and it seems there’s no logical reason for anyone to get their dog cloned. It’s expensive, ethically questionable, and doesn’t even deliver what people really want – a perfect reproduction of their dog.
But of course, that’s not the way many dog owners look at it. For them, it’s an emotional decision based on their deep attachment to their dog. They’re willing to go to great lengths for a chance to restart that companionship – or at least whatever facsimile of it they can get.