Do you remember Dolly?
Dolly was a sheep, and she was the first successful animal clone. She wasn’t that healthy, and didn’t live as long as she might have liked to, but she was a beginning.
Now meet Chance and Shadow, in the English town of Yorkshire and Ken and Henry, in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, and They’re not sheep, they’re dogs.
Chance and Shadow are Boxers. Ken and Henry are basically mutts. But they have an important thing in common—they are clones.
South Korean Clone Lab
All four dogs were produced—it is hard to think of them as bred—in a laboratory near Seoul, South Korea, named the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.In both cases the owners had dogs they treasured, and that had died.
The individual who runs the Korean lab, Hwang Woo Suk, has a bit of a checkered past. He gained notoriety about a decade ago when he claimed to have cloned a human being. It turned out that he had faked the work, and had been doing some embezzling as well. He avoided prison, but paid a heavy fine.
Very Pricey Puppies
But, as the Beatles sang, that was yesterday. Now Hwang is cloning dogs for real, and making a lot of money in the process. The lab charges $100,000 for each procedure. That may seem a little steep, but not for everyone. Phillip Dupont, the Louisianan who had his old mutt Melvin cloned to produce Ken and Henry, points out that he paid the same amount for his Humvee. At any rate, Sooam Biotech reportedly has produced more than seven hundred cloned puppies to date and counting.
But is this the wave of the future? Probably not. There’s the cost of the purchaser, of course. More important perhaps, is the cost in pain and suffering to the animals that are used to produce the clones.
Cost to Donor Dogs
Each procedure requires a doggie donor whose eggs must be removed surgically to be used to create the cloned embryo. The embryo must then, of course, be implanted surgically in yet another dog. Creation of the embryo itself is still hit or miss, and several attempts—and therefore surgeries—may be needed before one gets results. So the procedure puts the health and wellbeing of at least two dogs—egg donor and embryo carrier—at risk.
In Korea, the only place where this cloning is performed, the donor dogs are typically rented from farms, to which they are returned if they survive. The word is, although this is not absolutely confirmed, that many of these dogs then wind up being killed and sold for food.
In some countries there is a movement afoot to ban such cloning, which would mean that Korea might wind up being the only place where it is allowed. Cloning of livestock is already banned in some parts of Europe. Dogs might be next.
In the meantime, you are probably best advised to go to your neighborhood breeder when you are looking for your next pet.