Copycats: Pet Cloning and what you should know

Our pets hold such a special place in our hearts, and once they’re gone, it can feel like the void can never be fulfilled. With the magic of science and technology, cloning is a process where an exact genetic copy of a living organism can be created. Now, this can sound like a deal of a lifetime, especially for pet parents that have recently lost a fluffy friend. But pet cloning has more factors we should consider and understand before fully diving into it. 

From ethical concerns to the financial factors involved, pet cloning is a highly controversial topic. But after all, who wouldn’t want another chance at life, right? Today, MyFriend is here to introduce you to the practice, and what pet parents should realistically expect from artificial pet cloning. 

How does pet cloning work?

Generally, in order to clone a pet, genetic material from the original animal must be harvested. The sample must contain intact and therefore usable DNA, so gathering the perfect piece requires the owner (or veterinarian) to act fast after the pet has passed on. Simply put, the genetic material that was harvested will be injected into a donor egg (where the donor’s original genetic material has been removed, and replaced with the soon-to-be cloned animal). The egg then develops into an embryo, which is then implanted into the surrogate animal. Then the birth of the genetic twin or second version of the pet happens. 

After understanding the general procedures of the cloning process, pet parents should also be aware of the challenges and limitations involved. According to a report published by Columbia University, pet cloning has a very low success rate, averaging as low as 20 percent. This means that, if the process isn’t successful, more donor animals and surrogate mothers will have to sacrifice their ovaries and bodies for the procedure again until a viable clone is delivered.

Snuppy, the first successfully cloned dogs from a South Korean biotechnology company, only resulted after 1,000 embryos have been injected into more than 123 surrogates. Even though Snuppy lived up to 10 years, there’s still suspicion that cloned pets suffer more health issues compared to the original animal, although there is not enough data to support the claim yet. 

Benefits and drawbacks of pet cloning

It’s hard to move on once your pet has crossed the rainbow bridge. No doubt, owners seek pet cloning services to bring back and relive sweet memories and keep their beloved friends “alive.” Pet cloning services allow pet parents to continue their past pet’s legacy onwards – even if that means through a mere physical resemblance. 

It can be generally said that individuals want to clone their pets mainly because they still want to experience the same exact pet. From personality, and temperament, to quirks and idiosyncrasies, those are the things that make a furry friend unique – and to some, worth cloning. But the illusion stops there, as there is so much more to a living organism than its DNA. The exact genetic makeup does not promise the exact personality or quirks, which is what most pet parents are searching for, in the quest of reviving their beloved companions. 

There are also the high costs involved with the procedure – cloning dogs costs around $50,000 (~1,700,000 Baht) and cats $30,000 (~1,000,000 Baht) depending on the lab. Some would argue that, if there was a price tag to save you from the insufferable pain of losing a beloved family member, you would pay it too right? A price to pay to spend time lost together again sounds like a sweet deal when perspectives shift. But cloning a pet doesn’t mean you will get the exact pet back, they may be genetically identical, but it’s not as simple as that. Additionally, the procedure’s success is also highly variable, with much higher chances of failure. 

Ethical considerations you should think about 

There are many lives at stake. As easy as it is to be focused on the passing of the original pet and one’s own emotional needs, it’s questionable whether prioritizing the sensation of prolonging a pet’s life and identity is more important than the other animals that are also involved in the process. 

The pet cloning industry has introduced a whole new unseen class of animals that are used as a mere “biological substrate” against their will. Plus, the question of how these surrogates are treated in the facilities still remains largely unanswered. It’s also worth noting that surrogates are supplemented with hormones on a regular basis, so they can create embryos whenever the lab needs them. 

There are also many strays and pets that don’t have a forever home, and friends that are still on the streets with no roof over their heads. Is it possible then, if perspectives of pet parents who are interested in pet cloning shift from creating a genetically identical pet, to adopting a furry friend in honor of the pet that has passed on? Just as the cloning process has the potential to harm many lives, adoption gives other stray animals a second chance at life. Because adopting shelters also frees up space for more animals to have, at the very least, a roof over their heads, and their bellies fed.  

In reality, a beloved pet can never truly be replaced. As much as our hearts desire and hope for a second chance, a deal that’s too good to be true always comes with a price. So now that MyFriend has introduced you to pet cloning, ethical concerns, and considerations of the practice, as well as the benefits and drawbacks, take a step back and really consider the real cost of pet cloning. 

Have you heard of this practice before? Have you ever considered it? Let us know! 

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