Dog Cloning: Scientific Breakthrough or Unethical Practice?

With Barbra Streisand giving credibility to this icky practice, dog cloning might become a legitimate choice for pet lovers. But don’t fall for it.

dog cloning
Does the idea of dog cloning freak you out a little? Photo: Sponchia

Buy a dog, adopt a dog in need of a home — or clone your dog for $50,000–$100,000?

Believe it or not, some people are choosing the last option.

Previously, I’ve written about adopting rather than buying a new pet. I’ve even suggested that when you lose a beloved pet or are attached to a certain breed, broaden your horizons and try something new.

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In my experience, when I lost a dog, cried my eyes out and believed that dog could never be replaced, I was correct. They could never be replaced, yes, but the next dog I adopted was extraordinary in their own right.

I loved the new dog without reservation. The love-my-dog cycle began all over again.

The next dog wasn’t a replacement. It was a new beginning and a new canine-human experience.

Dog Cloning

My son texted me an article from Vanity Fair about puppy cloning.

All I have to say is thank you to Vanity Fair and David Ewing Duncan. It’s an excellent exposé, pointing out that dog cloning for the sole purpose of serving the vanity of the rich and famous is very unfair indeed.

When your beloved dog dies, it may sound tempting to bring them back through dog cloning, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Photo: nirolfix

Quick Recap of Animal Cloning

Dolly the sheep was on the cover of Time magazine over 20 years ago. I just remember it as freaky.

The first dog cloning happened in 2005. That birth took more than 100 borrowed dog wombs and more than 1,000 embryos.

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Here are some other big events in animal cloning throughout the years:

  • 2002: ViaGen, a Texas company, begins storing tissue from cows, pigs and horses. It later acquires the first cat cloning company, as well as the patents developed by the group that cloned Dolly.
  • 2016: Barbra Streisand is “outed” for having ViaGen clone her Coton de Tulear for $50,000. It doesn’t seem like she wanted this to come out in the media. Animal welfare folks really got on her case.
  • 2018: Dogs cloning is happening in South Korea. Vanity Fair describes the cloning institution as a futuristic castle — slightly unsettling, to say the least. Hwang Woo-suk, a discredited human doctor, not a veterinarian, is the cloner-in-chief. His price tag for dog cloning is up to $100,000 per puppy. It looks like Streisand got a great deal in Texas!

Hwang began dog cloning after he was kicked off the medical school faculty in Seoul, accused of embezzling government funds, illegally paying for donor eggs from female researchers and making false claims about human cloning.

Well, that’s enough about that.

He now has a big business cloning dogs such as Pomeranians, Salukis and Central Asian Ovcharkas. They have not-so-cute names, like 1108 and 1109. And there have been 49 clones from Miracle Milly, reportedly the world’s smallest Chihuahua.

Bioethics of Dog Cloning

The bioethics of cloning is a vast and interesting topic, ranging from a possibly altruistic scientific endeavor to clone animals on their way to extinction or food animals that can help feed the world to cloning dogs for the rich and famous.

So we have altruism and “the greater good” argument on the one side, and cloning a pet dog for a privileged person on the other.

It’s much better to go on a new adventure with new dogs than to try to reclaim the spirit of your deceased dog through dog cloning. Photo: Robert Bieber

Dogs as Constant Reproducers

To supply the wealthy with their dog clone, these companies must use other dogs as reproductive machines.

Although these new-wave dog cloners claim the process is much more ethical and streamlined than in the past, when many embryos were implanted in many dogs and the failure rate was high, many bioethicists disagree that today’s efforts are any more humane.

Much of the concern is about the surrogate moms, the “handmaids.” They are bred or chosen to be docile and friendly and then used as breeding machines.

These canine handmaids receive injections of hormones similar to those used in human infertility. The dogs, however, may receive the injections over and over again as they try to carry an embryo throughout their lives.

There is no reliable data on how well these dogs are treated. The overuse of their bodies and reproductive systems is considered inhumane by many.

Ethicists claim cloned dogs have a shorter lifespan. It’s too early to get good scientific data on this, since this massive influx of celebrity clones is only a few years old.

Animal ethicists also bring up the following concerns about dog cloning:

  • What about the 2 or 3 (or probably more) embryos that don’t make it?
  • What happens to the puppies who are born deformed?
  • How many are deformed?
  • How many “healthy” dog clones may be harboring health problems — only to be discovered later in life due to the unknown problems associated with the dog cloning process?

The Meaning of “Replica”

Rich people paying this enormous price for a clone are looking for a replica of their beloved dog.

TOP DOG NAMES ON PETFUL

Boomer, meaning “full-grown kangaroo,” is a great male dog name for dogs who are tough or outgoing.

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Ain’t gonna happen. Even with a clone, you might get about an 85% “twin” of the dog you loved and lost. And personality is never a guarantee.

Hwang has been quoted as saying, “Cloned puppies are like identical twins born at a later date.” He calls them twins out of time.

This hits a nerve. I am the proud mother of identical twin sons, now 35. I can assure you, like most mothers of identical twins will attest to, they are certainly not the same person. So these canines are not the same dog.

Through nature, nurture, nourishment, nutrition and neuronal plasticity, my twin boys are like night and day. This is a good thing. For any idiot out there who thinks they can replace their dog by cloning, think again.

This guy makes sense when discussing dog cloning:

I’m Angry With You, Barbra

Barbra Streisand was one of my heroes when I was 12.

I was a latchkey kid in 1968. I came home to a scary empty house in Queens, New York, held my grandmother’s insane Poodle for comfort in my arms, and stood on the couch and sang along to “My Name Is Barbra.”

You are a great girl from Brooklyn, like myself, Barb. Why waste even your nutty bunch of money on an absurdity like dog cloning?

Get real. Think about how much good your crazy money could do for animal welfare.

Adopt, Don’t Clone

Most people cry their eyes out when they lose their pet.

In some cases, the pet was the best friend they ever had.

But time heals. The best pet lovers are those who can open their hearts and minds to the next fabulous animal that comes down the road — not a clone, but an individual.

What to read next:

How Movies and TV Shows Have Ruined Dog Breeds

Turning any breed into a fad is the beginning of the end for the breed, and here’s why. See the article

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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