We Can Clone Pet Dogs, But Does This Mean We Should?

9/3/2018

In an interview with Variety, singer and actress Barbara Streisand revealed thattwo of her three Coton de Tulear dogs had been cloned from her late dog Samantha, who died last year at the old age of 14.Streisand told Variety that cells taken from Samantha's stomach and mouth were used to make the two clones, named Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett.

Source: Variety

The Oscar winner said in her interview:

They have different personalities... I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.

Few details were given as to why Streisand wanted to clone her dogs or where exactly they were made.While the process of dog cloning has been available to the public for over a decade, it doesn't come cheap, costing over $50,000. Companies like ViaGen in Texas and Sooam Biotech in South Korea both offer the service to the high-paying public but the subject still remains contentious.

How are dog clones made?

As you can imagine, the process of cloning a dog is not an easy one with several additional dogs required to help bring it to life.

Source: Instagram. Barbara Streisand

In an interview with Scientific American, author of a book on dog cloning John Woestendiek explained the process: 

In addition to the tissue sample of the original dog, cloners will need to harvest egg cells from dogs in heat—maybe a dozen or so. And, after zapping the merged cells with electricity so they start dividing, they’ll need surrogate mother dogs, to carry the puppies to birth.

During the process, the nucleus is removed from the original donor's eggs and injected with material from the animal to be cloned.Both ViaGen and Sooam Biotech confirm on their webistes that live births are used to create their clones. Once the cloned embryo has been injected into the surrogate mother, it takes about 60 days for dogs to be born, sometimes by cesarean section surgery.However, Sooam Biotech told the media outlets that the cloning process works only about 33 to 40 percent of the time, which means there is strong potential for miscarriages.

Are dog clones similar?

While cloned animals contain the exact same genes as their donor, there might be slight variations in how these genes are expressed. For example, eye color or markings could be different.

Source: Dogster

It is perhaps not so surprising that both clones have different personalities to Streisand's Samantha. Temperament is influenced by the environment in which the puppy is born and raised, making it unlikely to be replicated in a lab.

Are dog clones healthy?

According to the FDA, cloned animals are generally healthy and despite dogs having slightly more complicated reproductive systems, they too have healthy clones, although the process is more difficult.At first, scientists were worried that dog clones would age faster than natural-borne dogs but fortunately this doesn't seem to be the case.Thefirst dog clone was created in 2005—an Afghan hound named Snuppy in South Korea. Snuppy died when she was 10 years old and with the average lifespan for a dog of her breed being 11, this seemed normal.

Is dog cloning controversial?

Unlike their friends in the agricultural industry, dog and indeed pet cloning is relatively unregulated. However, it hasn't been without contention. In 2005California attempted to pass a billbanning the practice. Officials cited health concerns and worries that animal control would be unmanageable if pet owners turned to clones instead of shelters. The bill was ultimately voted down.

Source: Today

Some animal advocacy groups are opposed to the practice with Vicki Katrinak of the Humane Society saying: 

The Humane Society of the United States opposes cloning of any animals for commercial purposes due to major animal welfare concerns. Companies that offer to clone pets profit off of distraught pet lovers by falsely promising a replica of a beloved pet. With millions of deserving dogs and cats in need of a home, pet cloning is completely unnecessary.

Earlier this year, in a rather controversial scientific breakthrough, two monkeys were cloned in a Chinese research laboratory, being the first of their kind.

H/t: National Geographic