Recently a friend of mine had her dog die. It’s hit her so hard that I don’t dare ask about the details. I don’t know how much the details matter. The important thing is that the earth has lost one of its greatest souls.
This makes it as good a time as any to bring up a subject that’s been in my mind for over a year now… cloning your dog. (What, you don’t spend your day thinking about dog cloning?!?!)
In case you were wondering, the technology to clone your pet is available today. There are 4 cloned dogs walking the earth as you read this. This video shows two of them:
As the video above noted, pet cloning isn’t legal in the United States, due to ethical concerns. In fact, it appears that there is only one company in the world who can and will do the job, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul, Korea.
The cost of cloning your dog? It will set you back a solid $100,000… and we aren’t talking the candy bar. It certainly isn’t going to fit anyone’s average budget. That said, I’ve seen people spend thousands on their pets.
One can imagine a day where price will come down dramatically. I don’t think it is a question of the science, but just the public sentiment changing the laws to allow competition. Science will also continue its march which will also lower prices.
At today’s cost, I don’t know if makes sense for most to ask, “Should I clone my dog?” But what if today’s cost weren’t a huge obstacle? For some, it would become a more difficult question then.
In some ways, the cost to clone your dog isn’t a huge obstacle. There is a company in Worcester, Massachusetts that will preserve your dog’s cell line for a one-time cost of $1300, plus $100 per year for storage. The company is called PerPETuate. That cell line is all you need for a clone. The idea is to preserve the DNA while you can. Costs are prohibitive now, but down the road they probably won’t be.
While the PerPETuate’s price is not chump change, I’ve had some vet visits that were a third of that. In that perspective it is almost reasonable. When it came preserving stem cells for our son, we paid a lot more for that.
I am frequently near Worcester and it would be almost zero effort to bring my dog by.
Suddenly things got real.
I’m not going to say the financial aspect doesn’t matter – it does. However, it is no longer the insurmountable $100,000 number… for a chance.
“A chance at what” is the question. I think most people think that those who clone their dog expect to somehow cheat death and fate. A cloned dog is not going to be the same dog as the original. That kind of thinking would have identical twins being the same person. In the video above the two dogs that were cloned from the same DNA had obvious, but very minor physical differences. And dogs, like people, are not just their DNA, but also a product of their experiences and their environment.
Let me introduce you to my dog Jake:
I wouldn’t consider a clone of my dog Jake to be just like Jake. I would consider him to be like Jake’s brother. In fact, we know all his brothers. One of his brothers, Rocky, is essentially his twin. When they play together you can’t tell who is who. If we had been given Rocky instead of Jake I’m sure we’d love him just as much as we do Jake.
To sum it up, it is possible to clone Jake. The cost of prepare Jake to be cloned someday isn’t prohibitive. I’m not ethically against the idea of cloning Jake. So why am I not rushing to the clinic to get it done?
It’s the fourth factor… the one that shouldn’t be a problem, but is. There are millions of dogs that need to be rescued every year. Jake was one such rescue dog himself. Sure he’s got insanely good looks (three time city “most handsome”) and loving paws, but other dogs have them too. They need rescuing. If I cloned Jake it would take one more loving home for rescues off the market.
That’s where I have a moral dilemma. It’s a problem without an easy solution. Thus a year has gone by without taking action to clone my dog. On some level, it is almost as if I went to a breeder instead of rescuing a dog. It feels selfish to me, but at the same time when others get their dogs from breeders, I don’t have a problem with it. I tend to look at it as not an ideal situation, but still give them credit for being awesome (because a key test for “awesome” is whether you have a dog).
P.S. If my wife doesn’t chime in with a comment such as, “No way in Hell are we doing that with Jake” it is tacit permission, right?