Cloning your dog is no longer based on science fiction, as a procedure to make that exact DNA copy of your pup is now offered to the public from a company in Texas. Do you remember the hoopla around the cloned sheep named Dolly? The world was stunned when her cloned existence was announced to the masses a few decades ago from a research lab in Scotland. The cries of cloning being unethical and woes over a person being the next clone were heard across the globe.
Jump ahead a few decades and this is now available to anyone who has a beloved dog or cat that they want to keep around a while longer since the expected lifespan of your pet is much shorter than it is for a human. To rephrase this, the procedure is available to anyone who has the ability to plunk down $50,000 to have their canine’s identical twin created. The International Business Times suggests whether or not this is “horribly creepy” is left up to you.
The client service manager for ViaGen Pets, the company that is cloning the nation’s pets, conveys how people are still having a tough time wrapping their heads around the reality of cloning a dog. Some find it hard to believe that this can really happen, reports Melain Rodriguez.
Baxter, a nine-year-old poodle, greets folks as they come through the door at the Animal General Hospital in Cranberry. Baxter is a clone and he is owned by Dr. Mike Hutchison at the hospital. Unless you are told Baxter is a clone you wouldn’t know it. There is nothing unusual about Baxter when comparing him to other dogs.
Cloning has come a long way since Dolly the sheep days, as ViaGen has been cloning livestock for the last 15 years. They have thousands of cattle, 250 horses, and thousands of pigs to their cloning credits. Two years ago they moved on to clone pets, both dogs and cats, according to CBS Local News.
According to the president of science and technology for ViaGen, Shawn Walker PhD:
“I would have probably never thought about cloning a pet 10 years ago. I was in the livestock world. Now, my biggest regret is that we had one dog that we connected to, and I’d love to bring it back.”
Despite concerns from some in the public, your pet’s “clone is not going to be a Frankenstein,” said Rodriguez. You would not know a dog is a clone unless someone told you, the animals are no different than the animals born without cloning.
So how does this work? It starts with the vet taking small skin samples from your live dog, a simple procedure and usually the dog goes home the same day. Some folks opt to have the skin samples taken while the dog is at the hospital and under anesthesia for something as simple as a dental cleaning. Dr. Mike Hutchson said:
“Every vet on the planet can do this and preserve the DNA very, very easily,” Dr. Hutchison said. “It’s things we do every day in practice almost.”
The vet takes the sample and sends it to ViaGen. Rodriquez said, “These are cells that contain the pet’s complete DNA, and that’s all we need for cloning.” The cells from the dog are put inside a donor egg, where the nucleus of the egg is replaced with your dog’s DNA. The surrogate mother is picked “based on size, previous experience as a mom and her ability to care for her puppies,” according to CBS Local News. Rodriguez said:
“Once we have that cell line established, we will use those cells to produce cloned embryos and then transferred into a surrogate dog who has a normal gestation and then you’ve got a puppy that is born that is a is a genetic twin to that original pet.”
Dr. Mike is amazed how they can take a skin sample from an old dog who is sick and clone that dog producing a healthy normal pup as the end result. Rodriguez does warn that this is not a reincarnation process of your pet. The dog will have the same genetics and for the pet owner, a “little piece of that pet they loved so much is somehow back in their life again,” Rodriguez said.
The cost is $50,000 and it is paid half up-front, to get a spot on their waiting list. Yes, they currently have a waiting list to clone folks’ pets. They can usually get to the cloning of your pet within about two months, as the waiting list is short right now. From there it takes six to eight months for ViaGen to deliver that cloned puppy for you.
People are very close to their pets and often money is no object, Dr. Mike said he’s seen pet owners re-mortgage their homes to treat a dog in the late stages of cancer. While the price for cloning is a bit on the steep side for many regular people right now, they are working on bringing the cost down through increasing efficiency.
[Featured Image by otsphoto/Shutterstock]