Cloning pets — love or lunacy?

MOST people love their pets. Indeed, many people consider their pets to be members of the family. The death of a beloved pet can be truly devastating. But how far would you go to keep your little Fido with you forever? My Friend Again, a company in South Korea, is pioneering pet cloning. For some people, the US$100,000 price tag is worth having their precious family member back

While human cloning is illegal in most parts of the world, animal cloning is a far less regulated business, and a lucrative business at that. While there are no exact stats on how many people have paid for cloned pets or how much they have paid, the price tag of US$50,000 to US$100,000 has not stopped some pet owners from cloning their pets multiple times. American cable station TLC even ran a series called “I Cloned My Pet” in 2012 and 2013 that followed several distraught families as they went through the heart-rending process of reconnecting with their lost pets.

The process is surprisingly simple for pet owners. Owners can make plans ahead of time by ordering a biopsy kit from the cloning company. The owner’s local vet will receive the kit and instructions on extracting living tissue from the pet. The sample is then frozen and kept in storage until the owner decides to go ahead with the cloning process. If a pet has already died, there is still a chance that living tissue could be extracted from the animal within five days.

Once the owner decides to proceed with the cloning, all the owner needs to do is sign a form and pay the money. It could take up to a year for a healthy cloned baby to be born, though. The in vitro fertilization of the surrogate mother does not always work the first time, just like in humans, but once the healthy puppy arrives, the owner can fly to South Korea to pick it up and take it home when it is about 3 months old.

Is it exactly like the old pet? No. While it may look like the original pet and have the same genetics, animals, like people, are influenced by their surroundings and upbringings. The new puppy will not have the same memories or experiences as the original, so it will not behave exactly the same. Also, some people think that spending US$100,000 on a designer pet when there are millions of pets put to sleep in shelters around the world every year is selfish.

For pet owners willing to fork out the cash, though, the new babies are worth it. “My pet was the love of my life,” says bereaved pet owner Danielle about her sweet boy, Trouble. Fellow grieving pet parent Peter agrees. “I think about her every second,” he says of his lost girl, Wolfie. For these pet parents and countless others, any amount of money is worthwhile if they can hold their fur baby again. If the procedure becomes more popular and the price drops, who knows how many more people might join their ranks in this pioneering science.

Personally, I love my dog like a child. I have panic attacks when I am separated from her too long and I worry about her constantly. She is my best friend and has gotten me through some really hard times. She is only three years old, and small breeds like hers commonly live at least 15 years. Her natural death is still many, many years away, but I know it will happen. It worries me already just because I know it is inevitable. But would I clone her if she died? If money was no option, I can see it being tempting. My last dog, Timber, died long before his time and I miss him every day. Even though I know I could not have brought him to China (he was an Alaskan Malamute), I can’t stop thinking about him. But would I clone him or Vash? I don’t think I would. Timber was a shelter dog. I got him when he was two years old, full-grown in doggy years. There are so many amazing dogs in shelters, I think, when I was ready to love again, I would have to adopt a shelter dog again. However, I am not in the camp who think people who clone their dogs are selfish. As I said, I completely understand the strength of that pet-pet parent bond and I don’t think anyone should judge someone who loves their dog that much. After living in a country where I see animals abused on nearly a daily basis, I think that more people should love their pets enough that they would clone them if they died. If everyone loves their pets that much, there wouldn’t be needy animals in shelters because they would all be taken care of properly.

What do you think? Would you ever clone your pet?