Pet cloning and why I’d never do it

cat dog pet cloning

Recently, Barbra Streisand admitted she’d cloned her dog.  As more details came out in a second article a few days later, as well as all the interest in cloning I saw generated online, I decided out of my own curiosity to peek into the nuts and bolts of pet cloning.  Knowing nothing about it, I quickly found myself horrified reading about the dark side of the industry.  It’s one that’s seldom talked about openly and definitely not during magazine or tv interviews, and of course not by Barbra or any of the other people who have decided that a clone of their deceased cat or dog is worth whatever the cost.      

I was just going to take a quick peek

It all started after I read Barbra Streisand’s second and more in-depth interview about her cloning experience.  If you missed it, you can read it here, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/style/barbra-streisand-cloned-her-dog.html.  After reading the interview, I wondered if cloning really was as simple as she made it sound.

In less than twenty minutes into my poking around online into the topic of cat and dog cloning, it was obvious that Barbra hadn’t done any research on cloning or was too selfish to care if she had.  I couldn’t believe all the information out there screaming “Cloning is a horrible idea!”.  It was hard for me to understand how anyone could claim to have so much love for a single cat or dog that they wanted another genetic copy made, yet no issue with all the pain and suffering to other cats or dogs in accomplishing that.

For those that don’t have the time to read through this lengthy post, let me summarize for you.  When you spend thousands and thousands of dollars to clone a pet, you are essentially giving companies that do pet cloning the money to do things like genetically modify pets’ genes to intentionally make them fluorescent (just because) or sick so experiments and drugs can be used on them.  One very popular cloning company is also actively trying to resurrect a woolly mammoth.  These companies are preying on peoples’ grief over the loss of their pets to give them a similar cat or dog, but doing so while withholding all the dirty details of cloning.  Details like how many cats or dogs it actually takes to make a single clone, where all those donors and surrogates come from, and how many clones are born deformed or not an exact replica.  All of this is done without anyone even being 100% sure how the long-term health will be for clones, especially those whose donor died from cancer, heart attack, or other health issues.  The original sheep and also the original cloned dog both developed cancer and the original cloned cat was nothing like it’s original in looks or personality. Those that have cloned their pets report varying degrees of likeness to the original.  Experts all agree that cloning makes a genetic copy, not an identical animal with the matching personality of the original, which begins forming in the womb and continues to be shaped by its life experiences, which can’t be duplicated.

When I first began this post, I had started out just wanting to know how cloning was done, if the clones were completely identical to the original, and what, if any, were the negatives to it, besides the exorbitant cost, currently $50,000-$100,000 for dog cloning and $25,000 for cats.  While not expecting it to be all sunshine and rainbows, I certainly didn’t realize pet cloning was as dark as it was.

How cloning works

A simplistic breakdown of how cloning works is that genetic tissue is taken from a living or recently deceased pet and sent to the cloning company for processing.  Eggs are then harvested from donors, manipulated in a lab to insert the animal to be cloned’s DNA, then reinserted into surrogates who give birth.  It is not uncommon for those births to require c-sections.

One red flag about cloning that came up immediately was the lack of transparency.  In any of it.  If one didn’t go digging for it, the common person would be inclined to believe that it only takes one cat or dog to make a clone.  While the numbers that it takes are not required to be disclosed anywhere, initially, it took 8 surrogate cats and 123 surrogate dogs to produce the first cat and dog clones.  Those numbers are just the surrogates and don’t include the number of cats or dogs whose eggs were harvested.  The number of embryos required for that first dog was 1,095.  How many dogs it took to provide that many embryos remains a mystery.

Lack of transparency is never a good sign

Even if the total number of cats and dogs required to produce a clone is substantially less than it was in 2001 and 2005 when the first clones were produced, it is still a very high number of cats and dogs that are used for someone else’s gain.  Once the egg donors and surrogates have served their purposes, you can be fairly certain they don’t go live on nice farms out in the country with a loving family.  If only the companies cloning these pets put that information on their FAQ pages.  And were completely honest about it.  But that’s not how this business works.

In South Korea, it appears most, if not all dogs come from, and return to, South Korea’s 17,000 dog meat farms.  Dog meat farms do well from the cloning industry since they can then make money renting out their dogs as donors and also selling them for meat.  In the U.S., dogs come from breeders who specifically breed them for research purposes, to which they are returned after serving their cloning purpose.  I never did find where the poor cats are gathered from to be used.  One company did say they harvest the eggs for cat cloning from free spay clinics they sponsor at animal hospitals.

Also missing in any of the numbers disclosed to the public about cloning is the success rate.  Of course, the cloning companies don’t want potential clients to know how many kittens or puppies are born deformed, stillborn, the wrong sex, color, etc.  They also don’t share how many or what happens to all the extra clones that the owners don’t take.

dog cloning
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/the-hidden-dogs-of-dog-cloning/

So many dark sides to pet cloning

According to an interview given by John Woestendiek, the author of the book Dog, Inc.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics, and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industryhttps://amzn.to/2JBMtL4, when he visited a dog cloning lab while writing his book, he said many of the “surplus” dogs appeared to be languishing in cages.  He also said that from his own in-depth look at cloning, he was repulsed by what he saw playing out.

When someone opts to clone their dog, several dogs that are in heat are selected as egg donors, surrogates are implanted with the cloned-DNA eggs, given hormones, and then hopefully produce a living, healthy clone.  If live, healthy puppies are produced, they have to survive living in close quarters with lots of other dogs and diseases like parvo.  A Reddit post I found discussing pet cloning had someone who claimed to work with transgenic animals and they did not advise cloning at all due to cruelty and loss of lives in the process.

After the donor dogs have served their purpose, Barbra’s clone provider, ViaGen, returns (sells back?) them to the Class A dealer who supplied the dog, and it can be available for purchase as a research subject.   One of the South Korean companies uses the money it makes from dog cloning to fund its research projects, which include using dogs whose genes they’ve manipulated to have Alzheimer’s, diabetes or brain tumors.  They are also actively working to clone the woolly mammoth.   ViaGen also admits to providing programs for cloned embryos that produce transgenic animals for biomedical purposes.

cat cloning dog cloning

The clones and the disappearing companies that made them

After reading about the cloning of Dolly the sheep that started the whole cloning craze in 1996 by those who saw it as a doorway to monetary gain, I decided to start there.  I’ve made a timetable of how cloning has progressed, including the companies that were doing it that have come and gone, as well as all the updated information I could find.  Interestingly, in a world of social media, I found very few active social media accounts or current pictures of the clones on the ones that are still active.  Even a website dedicated to one of the clones is no longer around.

Dolly the sheep.  Cloned in Scotland at The Roslin Institute.  DOB/DOD: 1996-2003.  Her lifespan: 6.5 years.  Dolly was euthanized after contracting a virus which causes lung cancer that led to a cough and subsequent finding of tumors in her lungs.  She also had premature arthritis.  Normal lifespan for sheep is around 12 years.  There was a lot of speculation, including her living arrangement being the cause of her health issues, but whatever the reason, Dolly lived a short and possibly painful life.  Source: http://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/the-life-of-dolly/index.html.

The Roslin Institute no longer clones animals and had this to say on their FAQ page about cloning pets:

What about cloning pets?

It is understandable that someone would want to clone a beloved pet after it dies. However, there would still be significant differences between the clone and the original pet, both in their looks and personality. A good example of this is the first cloned cat CC and her DNA donor Rainbow. Although CC is Rainbow’s clone and shares her DNA, the two cats look completely different. This is because coat colour and pattern is influenced by the environment in the womb, something which cannot be replicated by cloning.                                                                            Source:  http://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/cloning-faqs/index.html#cFAQ3

CC/Carbon Copy the cat.  Cloned in Texas at A&M University.  DOB/DOD: 2001-? (alive as of March 2017).  Although born healthy, CC, who was gray and white, did/does not look or act anything like her genetic mother, Rainbow, who was a calico.  It took 87 cloned embryos surgically implanted into eight cats for CC to be born via c-section.  CC is living with the man that helped clone her.  Due to several factors, including influences in the womb, and how much CC was handled in her early days, she is much more outgoing than Rainbow.  Texas A&M’s research was funded by a company known as Genetic Savings and Clone from California that was only in business from 2000 to 2006.  While Genetic Savings and Clone had originally intended to be a pet gene bank and a cat and dog cloning service, Lou Hawthorne, CEO of Genetic Savings and Clone cited that due to the technology not being mature enough, they were exiting the business in 2006.  Sources:  https://today.tamu.edu/2017/03/23/some-paws-for-celebration-worlds-first-cloned-cat-turns-15-at-texas-am/ and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_Savings_%26_Clone and http://aavs.org/cms/assets/uploads/2014/08/aavs_report_pet-cloning-buyers-beware.pdf?x82509

Little Nicky the Maine Coon cat.  Cloned by the now defunct Genetic Savings and Clone in California (2000-2006).  DOB/DOD: 2004-?  The owner, only known by the name Julie, paid $50,000 and was the world’s first paying client to have their cat cloned.  Despite Genetic Savings and Clone’s CEO Lou Hawthorne admitting that roughly a third of the clones in their experiments did not survive beyond 60 days and between 15% and 45% of cloned cats born alive die within 30 days, Julie was determined to clone her cat Nicky who had passed away at age 17.  At first, when Little Nicky was presented to Julie as a kitten, she appeared to be thrilled, but later accounts, which John Woestendiek, the author of Dog, Inc. shares in his book, indicate Little Nicky developed undisclosed medical problems, and Julie hired legal representation.  Mr. Woestendiek also indicates in his book that someone who was verified to be Julie posted critical comments in regards to an article written in 2008 about Lou Hawthorne and Genetic Savings and Loan.  In the comments, Julie and Lou Hawthorne argued back and forth that Little Nicky was never verified as a clone and Julie saying Little Nicky was not a healthy cat, even calling his health “poor”.  Lou countered that if Little Nicky had any health issues, he suspected it to be acquired, not genetic.  It was also reported from another source that as an adult, Little Nicky looked and behaved differently than Julie’s original cat.  Possibly there is more to this story in Mr. Woestendiek’s book, (I only found this snippet in the preview excerpts) but after hours of scouring the web, I was unable to find the particular article where Julie and Lou supposedly had their exchange or any other updates of any kind past the happy initial introduction.  Sources:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/dec/24/sciencenews.genetics and John Woestendiek’s book, Dog, Inc.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics, and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry https://amzn.to/2JBMtL4 and http://aavs.org/cms/assets/uploads/2014/08/aavs_report_pet-cloning-buyers-beware.pdf?x82509, pg. 7

Snuppy, an Afghan hound.  The first dog to ever be cloned.  Cloned in South Korea by researchers from Seoul National University.  DOB/DOD: 2005-2015.  AKC lists life expectancy for Afghan hounds at 12-18 years.  Snuppy died from cancer at age 10.  Despite being raised in different environments, Tai, Snuppy’s cell donor also died of cancer at 12, although it was a different form of cancer.  The production/cloning of Snuppy took 1,095 dog embryos placed in 123 dogs to produce Snuppy via c-section.  There was a miscarried puppy and another puppy born alive that died a few weeks after birth (I read conflicting reports that the cause of death was from diarrhea and another saying pneumonia).  That made Snuppy the only clone that survived from all those donor dogs that had to undergo surgical procedures to have their parts and bodies used.  Sources:  http://time.com/3822573/snuppy/http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/afghan-hound/ and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-15328-2 and http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2005/08/first-dog-cloned

Finnigan Forcefield the cat.  Cloned by Genetic Savings and Clone in California who shut down in 2006.  DOB/DOD: 2006-?(Last proof of life I could find was a Twitter post celebrating Finnigan’s 5th birthday on September 15, 2011) After the young cat he’d purchased at the mall was run over and killed, Liam Lynch had him cloned.  By all accounts, Liam was happy with his decision, although in John Woestendiek’s book, he admitted that he didn’t think he had the same cat back, though he did feel he had a new friend and one that served as quite the conversation piece.  Though all of Liam’s social media accounts still remain active and have shown pictures of his other cats since 2011, including four others in late 2017, I could find no picture or mention of Finnigan since 2011. Sources:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_Savings_%26_Clone and https://twitter.com/lynchland/status/114490904752029696 and https://www.instagram.com/liamlynch111/

Mira, a mixed breed dog.  Born from the collaboration of BioArts International in California and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.  DOB/DOD: 2007-?.  Mira was the first clone born from the cells of Missy, a mixed breed dog owned by the mother of the CEO (Lou Hawthorne) of Genetic Savings and Clone (2000-2006), then BioArts International (2006-2010).  Missy and the ‘Missyplicity Project’ had been the inspiration for the dog cloning business that started with ‘Operation CC’, the cat at Texas A&M University in 1998 (referenced above).  After shuttering Genetic Savings and Clone in 2006, Lou Hawthorne then formed BioArts International and partnered with Sooam Biotech Research Foundation to clone dogs.  BioArts stopped cloning in 2009 citing the suffering inflicted on dogs during cloning and its research as the reason, but not before Sooam Biotech reproduced several clones of Missy.  When Lou closed Genetic Savings and Clone, he had blamed the inability of technology to make cloning pets viable.  According to Lou Hawthorne’s LinkedIn page, Mira currently lives with him.  I couldn’t find any information about Mira’s health and just a little bit in general about the clones not being identical to Missy looks or personality-wise.  For example, one of the clones had an erect ear and a floppy ear instead of Missy’s erect ears.  Missy was euthanized in 2002 at the age of 15 due to an inoperable esophageal tumor.  Sources:  http://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/27/us/owners-give-2.3-million-to-clone-dog.html and https://www.linkedin.com/in/louis-hawthorne-b654b12b and http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/columnists/doug-moe/doug-moe-billionaire-s-cloning-quest-led-to-madison/article_f4aa8b22-e88a-5b48-bfb6-f35cdc774e3e.html

MissyToo, along with 3 other ‘Missy clone’ mixed breed dogs.  MissyToo and the other Missy clones were also born from the collaboration of BioArts International in California and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.  They were all produced from Lou Hawthorne’s mothers’ beloved mixed breed dog, Missy (see above).  DOB/DOD: 2008-?.  Some reports, including those from the Hawthorne camp, have said there were a total of four clones, but I found one article from the UK’s Mirror that said four more clones were made six months AFTER Mira, which seems to confirm what I read on Mr. Woestendiek’s blog and in his book preview.  In his book, Dog, Inc., John Woestendiek describes going to visit the South Korean biotech lab where the Trakr search and rescue dogs, Lancelot Encore the yellow lab, and the Missy clones dogs were all cloned.  He reported seeing one of the Missy clones that Hawthorne had left behind.  That contradicted there being four clones that I read in other reports, but given how the family didn’t even end up liking or wanting the clones, I do find it believable.  At one point, MissyToo was apparently living with John Sperling, the billionaire love interest of Lou’s mother, who put up the millions of dollars to begin the whole dog cloning project due in part to how wonderful they thought the original Missy was.  I’m not sure where MissyToo ended up after John Sperling’s death in 2014, if she’d even lived that long.  The family had claimed the other two clones were given to family friends.  Throughout my research, I found myself sad for that last fourth dog, if it was indeed true, that was left behind at the lab, when the cloning didn’t turn out to produce an exact replica of the dog they’d lost.  Or possibly, and this is just my thoughts, maybe that last Missy clone was left behind on purpose, so the lab could study/monitor her health as she aged?  Overall, the dogs weren’t very well received by the family.  Lou’s mother, who had owned Missy since adopting her at around four months, didn’t like or want MissyToo, calling her “too rambunctious” and claiming she’d already adopted a “real dog” after losing her original Missy.  How ironic that this was the reception to dogs cloned from the dog that gave these people the whole idea to start cloning dogs to begin with in 1997.  Sources: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/cloned-dogs-scientist-lou-hawthorne-3402419   and  http://www.ohmidog.com/2008/12/12/happy-birthday-mira-first-dog-clone-in-us-is-1/#comments and  http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=174821654 and http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/columnists/doug-moe/doug-moe-billionaire-s-cloning-quest-led-to-madison/article_f4aa8b22-e88a-5b48-bfb6-f35cdc774e3e.html

Booger McKinney and four other pit bull clones.  The first dogs commercially cloned by RNL Bio in South Korea, who stopped cloning pet dogs in 2011.  DOB/DOD: 2008-?  After Bernann McKinney’s beloved rescued pit bull Booger became ill from cancer, she had skin cells taken and frozen.  In the end, Booger died from cancer, and Bernann (aka Joyce McKinney) sold her house to afford the cloning when it became available a few years later.  Unfortunately, she would come to regret the decision, admitting that cloning ruined her life.  Bernann revealed that the puppies didn’t get along with each other, or with her other dogs, requiring them to be in cages all of the time.  She also admitted that they all had health problems, including some quite serious.  The only somewhat recent information I could find about any of the clones was from 2011 when Ms. McKinney attended the screening of a documentary about her earlier life called ‘Tabloid’.  Pictures show she was accompanied by a pit bull that she claims was one of the clones.  Sources:  https://www.wired.com/2008/08/the-wrong-way-t/ and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1041709/Dead-dogs-owner-creates-FIVE-cloned-puppies-beloved-pet.html and https://nypost.com/2011/01/16/adorable-little-abominations-of-nature/ and http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=52851310&itype=CMSID

Lancelot Encore the labrador.  Cloned by collaboration with BioArts International in California and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation before BioArts stopped cloning in 2009.  DOB/DOD: 2008-?  The owners, The Otto’s, were happy with their newly delivered 10-week old puppy, who was a clone of their yellow labrador Lancelot.  They’d taken Lancelot’s DNA samples a few years prior to losing him to cancer in 2007 at age 11.  They remarked how Lancelot Encore looked identical and had similar mannerisms like crossing his paws.  Lancelot Encore also had a similar knee problem that Lancelot had.  They had a website called www.labraclone.com that is no longer around.  Lancelot Encore was used to produce at least one litter of puppies born in July 2012 because the owners wanted to see if the puppies were any different than those not born from a clone.  Despite being a clone, the owners were not happy that the AKC does not register clones, but despite that, they intended to get $2,000 per puppy.  They were going to take one of the females and possibly breed her later.  The last information I could find on Lancelot Encore was in a July 25, 2012 interview with Today when the owners discussed the three-week-old puppies and their future plans.  Sources:  http://www.ohmidog.com/2009/01/28/a-lab-from-the-lab-florida-couple-gets-clone/ and https://www.military.com/off-duty/television/2012/05/21/show-features-florida-couple-who-cloned-their-dog.html and https://www.today.com/news/encore-cloned-dog-becomes-dad-8-healthy-puppies-wbna48323508 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pP9zO-xpRQ

Double Trouble and Triple Trouble aka Poppy, the lhaso apsos.  Cloned by Sooam Research in South Korea.  The owner, Danielle Tarantola, was regularly seen promoting cloning, which she received a discount for by appearing on TLC’s ‘I Cloned My Pet’.  DOB/DOD: 2011-?  Danielle cloned her dog Trouble after he passed away in 2008 after 18 years of companionship.  After keeping Trouble’s leftover food and water, having a mural of him painted on her wall, and sleeping with his ashes, among other remembrances of her lost dog, she decided to clone him.  She has said she asked a lot of questions, including what happened to the surrogates.  She was satisfied when she was told that they would be “sent to nice farms to live out their days”.  Whether that was a company representative’s completely truthful version or the shortened and (more likely) customer-friendly version of “dog meat farm”, Danielle was apparently appeased by it and chose to proceed with the cloning.  In doing so, she actually ended up with two clones born at different times.  While she has said the dogs are identical in every way to the original, like enjoying hiding under her bed, the dogs do appear to have slightly different markings.  Danielle has also admitted that the personalities of the clones have been different than those of the original Trouble.  In an interview with the NY Post Danielle said she did know that Trouble was dead, but having the clones was like having him back again.  She also went on to say that Trouble had really bonded to her family, and wasn’t interested in outsiders.  The first clone, Double Trouble, is much more outgoing and likes to interact with people.  The last photos or mentions I could find anywhere about Double and Triple Trouble/Poppy were from social media in 2014.  Sources:  https://nypost.com/2012/01/15/fido-clone-home-gals-50g-dog-double/ and  http://www.silive.com/news/2012/01/staten_island_woman_who_cloned.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085702/Danielle-Tarantola-spends-32k-dog-cloned-beloved-pet-died.html#reader-comments

Chance and Shadow the boxers.  Cloned by Soam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea.  DOB/DOD:  2015-?  After her 8-year-old boxer, Dylan unexpectedly died of a brain tumor, Richard Remde and Laura Jacques from the UK decided to have him cloned.  They ended up with two puppies from the cloning process, Chance and Shadow.  One puppy was born naturally and the other was born via c-section from two different surrogates, which Richard and Laura also adopted because they felt like they owed them.  Due to strict British quarantine laws, they had to wait 7 months to get their new dogs.  Despite being clones, they were not exactly identical and Laura, first interviewed after spending only 12 hours with the new pups, admitted besides being slightly different looking than the original Dylan, of the two clones, Chance had more of the originals temperament.  When asked about the pups later when they were around 18 months in August 2017, Laura said she saw the pups as brand new dogs, like Dylan’s puppies, instead of replicas of him.  I couldn’t find any more recent information and social media accounts haven’t been active since the puppies were brought home in 2016.  Sources:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3735348/Basket-Cases-couple-spent-80k-cloning-two-puppies-beloved-dead-boxer-Korean-lab-happened-ve-bought-home-surrogate-mums-too.html#comments and https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/britains-first-puppies-cloned-dead-dog-spookily-sync/

Nubia the jack russell terrier.  Cloned by ViaGen Pets, a cloning company out of Texas.  While they have been cloning livestock for years, they just began cat and dog cloning in 2015.  DOB/DOD:  2016-?  Nubia was not only ViaGen’s first dog clone but also the first dog clone by a U.S. firm.  Nubia was approximately 6-7 months old when she was delivered to her family.  Her genetic donor died at age 14 of pulmonary hypertension.  According to the owner’s account on ViaGen’s website of Nubia, Nubia has some similarities and differences both physically and temperament-wise from the original dog.  Like Lancelot Encore’s owner, Nubia’s owner also intends to produce puppies with their clone.  Sources:  https://viagenpets.com/nubia-turns-two/ and http://www.k9magazine.com/could-cloning-your-dog-help-to-mend-a-broken-heart-meet-the-family-who-tried-it/

Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, along with a 3rd coton de tulear.  Cloned by ViaGen Pets in Texas.  DOB:  2017-?  Clones of Barbra Streisand’s deceased dog, Samantha, who died at age 14.   While four cloned puppies were produced, the smallest one died, leaving Barbra with three living clones.  She kept two, which she has to keep straight by keeping them in colored sweaters, hence their names.  She gave the third pup away.  Barbra was quoted in the NY Times as saying that “Each puppy is unique and has her own personality.”  During her interview, she went on to say “You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul. Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha…and smile.”  But probably the most telling of what she said about her clones being exactly like her beloved Samantha was “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.”  Sources:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/style/barbra-streisand-cloned-her-dog.html and https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/02/barbra-streisand-dog-cloning-pets

False claims and unrealistic expectations

Despite what ViaGen says on their FAQ page, “Yes. Cloned pets do have lives of normal lengths.”, there’s not enough historical data to back that claim up.  Almost every original/genetic donor being cloned seems to have had some sort of serious medical condition, including cancer that caused their demise.  Of just the few clonings I dug up above, a few of them were either born with medical conditions, inherited a medical condition, or died of the same disease as their genetic donor.  While that small number is hardly an accurate depiction of how the majority of cloned animals’ lives are, I do think it should give one pause.

Cloning pets is still such new territory and so much pressure is placed on hoping you get back what you lost.   Even if your clone is healthy, the personality may or may not be similar to the original pet.  Some reported their cats and dogs were alike in a lot of ways, but mostly the people who did give their glowing praise, were doing so shortly after receiving their new pet, still a puppy/pup or kitten, so knowing for sure what the long-term personality turned out to be was hard to find.  One article said the personality differences would be more pronounced as the pet got older.  Other stories I read reported clones not getting along with each other or with their cloned cat/dog not getting along with the original.

cat cloning, dog cloning
https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-lab-will-clone-your-pet-for-dollar50k-would-you-do-it

In Barbra’s case, she was hoping her dogs ended up being more like Samantha when they got older.  Maybe nobody informed Barbra that it takes more than just cloning some DNA to get back what you lost.  There’s a lot that goes into personalities being defined and the chances that everything would be completely the same for her clones as it was for her beloved Samantha to turn out the way she did with her particular personality, starting in the womb, is impossible.  This is especially true of dogs that didn’t come into the owner’s life until they were already an adult or young adult.  The shaping of personality was already happening before they ever met.

It seems Barbra reacted to the death of her dog by running out and adopting another dog, buying one from her previous dog’s breeder, and choosing to clone her dog.  Those are a lot of decisions to make in the throes of grief.  Once the dust had settled and she found herself going from one dog to five suddenly, more turmoil was created in everyone’s life.  Knowing five dogs was too many for someone accustomed to only one, Barbra set about re-homing her newly adopted dog and giving away one of the clones.  With three dogs and a completely different environment than what Samantha grew up in, Barbara hopes the clones have Samantha’s personality when they are older.  From what I’ve read, that’s pretty unlikely.

Conclusion

In the many hours of research I did on this subject, I was left with an overwhelming sadness.  Sad for people like Barbra and Danielle and the others whose whole life revolved around their pet.  When that pet was gone, they were heartbroken and lost.  Instead of taking all that love and passing it on to another cat or dog that deserved it, they chose to go a route that I’m sure they wouldn’t have wanted their beloved pet to go through.  All the while supporting an industry that is based on so much animal suffering.

I was also extremely sad for all those voiceless cats and dogs out there that don’t have a choice in any of this.  Those whose bodies and lives are nothing more to anyone than a stepping stone for someone far away from their suffering getting a close resemblance of a pet back and for a company to make money regardless of the cost.   That sadness extends to all the unwanted clones and those cats and dogs that are already here and sitting in a shelter somewhere just waiting for someone to give them a chance.

Cloning a beloved pet may seem like a good idea, but the truth is, when you look at the big picture of it, it’s actually a very selfish one.  And while every single one of us could probably quickly name a cat or dog that we’d love to have back, knowing how much suffering goes into it should change the mind of even the most pro-clone pet owner.  While cloning may still be the answer for some, for me, it won’t ever be an option under any circumstance.

 

 

If you found this post helpful and have decided not to spend $25,000 to clone your cat or $50,000-$100,000 to clone your dog, feel free to scroll to the bottom and send me a small donation to restock my caffeine supply and purchase eye cream for the countless long hours and all-nighters I spent compiling all the details about the dark side of pet cloning that most who write about it, just ignore.  

Sources:

http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1985338/mans-best-friend-lives-forever-south-korean-cloning-firm

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2076681-inside-the-cloning-factory-that-creates-500-new-animals-a-day/

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-woosuk-hwangs-sooam-biotech-mastered-cloning-2015-8

http://www.ohmidog.com/2016/09/16/dog-clones-now-made-in-america/

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/yes-you-can-clone-your-dog-but-would-you-want-to/

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/garden/01clones.html

http://www.dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au/component/content/article/34-dog-articles/dog-articles/76-dog-cloning-demand

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-dogs-go-heaven/201602/cloning-pets

https://viagenpets.com/historical-look-viagen-fascinating-science/

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/7mvsqm/ama_request_someone_that_has_had_their_pet_cloned/#bottom-comments

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/411834/the-dark-side-of-pet-cloning/#comments

https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/01/dog-cloning-is-not-as-cuddly-as-it-looks.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14249-interview-its-a-dogs-life-again/

https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/reallife/293848/i-had-my-beloved-dog-cloned-twice/

http://theweek.com/articles/478973/cloned-pet-tlcs-craziest-show

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/09/britains-first-cloned-dog-born

https://web.kitsapsun.com/archive/2003/01-22/55232_cloned_pet_close__but_not_a_purr.html

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/12/cat_cloning_crocked/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/opinion/clone-pet-streisand-dog.html

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6 thoughts on “Pet cloning and why I’d never do it

  1. You are truly courageous to have gone hunting down this horrible road for the truth.
    Without even knowing the despicable details, when I saw the title of your article, I started yelling obscenities against people such as Streisand. For the selfishness (which comes as no surprise, in fact, with Streisand). I mean come on. You have THAT amount of money to spend in such a manner? Cripes. Donate to shelters that really need the support! Let’s hope she does that much, anyway.

    As you say in your article, there are millions of dogs and cats desperately in need of adoption. And, again without knowing the facts behind cloning – no guarantee of an exact replica, right down to personality – each animal has a personality that a person can learn from, can gain deeper compassion from. Sure, I’d love to have a few animals back in my life, but I’d like the original! In the meantime, we have embraced new personalities into our life, and we are the richer for it.

    1. It WAS a very long and hard road, Tamara. Every time I thought I was wrapping up this post, I’d see or read something else that I felt was important to share. I left out a lot, just to keep this post from turning into a book, which it easily could have been. lol I agree with your statement about being richer for the new personalities that come into our lives. 🙂

  2. Thank you for taking the time to do all of the research and then passing along the info to us. I would never clone any animal as I know that there is no possibility that I could have my heart dog back…no one could ever come close to the connection that I had with her and I don’t think I would expect any animal to live up to the legacy that is my sweet Angel.
    I certainly understand the grief that Barbra went through, but I wish someone had sat her down and talked to her about what she was doing. As a lifelong animal lover I would think that had she had the information, she too would be horrified at the suffering and death involved in cloning an animal as well as the fact that you can never have that connection again. You’ll have connections but they will be different and so they should, every animal and circumstance is unique and they should be cherished for their differences.
    Thanks again for a well written and informative article!!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Martina! This post took waaay longer to write than I’d planned, but there was just so much information out there that a lot of the “fluff” articles about cloning weren’t sharing about what really goes into cloning. Thank you for taking the time to read it all and comment. I appreciate your feedback! 🙂

  3. Thank you for this incredibly well-researched article. My eyes were finally opened to the truth, which now makes so much more sense than what I had been being told, which was that a clone of an animal or even person, was identical in every way. I have been bitter and saddened that I couldn’t afford to have my best beloved cat Baxter cloned. I was jealous of people rich enough to do it. But I can relax now, cherish him, and continue adopting from shelters. I cannot believe Babs didn’t do a modicum of research, but I know I have seen things on newsmagazine TV shows that paints it in a “Wow! The future is here!” manner. You might want to watch an HBO documentary I saw called One Nation Under Dog, it was very revealing and hard to watch in places. I think it ended with a segment on cloning but I can’t say 100%. I do know it left a mark on me about pedigree dogs, bad breeding practices and more. But this is by far the most enlightening, thorough look into pet cloning, and it has allowed me to let go of that dream which sounds like a total nightmare. Thank you so much for what I know was no easy task.

    1. Melissa,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post and sharing your thoughts about cloning and how you see cloning in a new light. Unfortunately, from all the responses I read online after Barbra’s interview came out, I think a lot of people are like you and have been led to believe that it’s easy and there are no negatives to it, except for the cost. In reality, it’s almost a secretive practice and very unregulated. Being very pro-rescue, reading all this craziness was heartbreaking for me. Like so many other things in our society, it’s all about greed by the cloning companies and a lot of ignorance by the cloning customers. That’s why I felt compelled to share the truth about it all and hopefully change some minds. Bless you for not contributing or even wanting to contribute to this awful industry. Hugs to you and Baxter.

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