It is now possible to clone your dog but would you do it? Denise Westervelt did – twice! Denise Westervelt was devastated when her dog Peanut died. She had owned several chihuahuas but Peanut was particularly loveable. Having read about dog cloning, Denise decided to replicate little Peanut! Her son contacted ViaGen Pets, a division of Trans Ova Genetics, with a view to cloning the dog. For $50,000, plus the costs of genetic material collection and storage fees, the company produced two clones of Peanut.
The two dogs now reside with Denise near New York. Apparently both puppies sound remarkably like Peanut which should come as no surprise as they are genetically identical. They look similar too and play in the same way.
In 1996, Dolly the Sheep was the first mammal to be successfully cloned. The first dog clone was Snuppy who was born in 2005. ViaGen, which is based in Cedar Park, Texas, began cloning animals in 2003. They originally focussed on cloning farm animals but subsequently established a pet division which launched in 2016 and now offers cloning services for dogs and cats.
The Cloning Process
In order for a pet to be cloned, owners obtain a ViaGen Pets Biopsy Kit. This enables veterinarians to take a tissue sample of the animal. The company then cultures the cells and stores them cryogenically until they’re needed. When a clone is required, ViaGen takes a cell and replaces the nucleus of another female animal’s egg. The egg and cell join together and an embryo starts growing. This is implanted into a surrogate dog and the clone is born naturally.
The Cost of a Cloned Pet
Cloned pets should lead a normal lifespan but will inherit the health issues of the original animal. Duplicate pets don’t come cheap. Genetic preservation costs $1,600 and the cloning process will set you back $50,000 for dogs and $25,000 for cats.
Clones are genetically identical to the original pet but that doesn’t mean that they will look the same. Genes can be expressed in different ways so the clone may exhibit different markings. Personalities can also vary.
However, Denise Westervelt reports that her clones are remarkably similar to Peanut. They have the same temperament and behave in the same way when she enters a room. Peanut had a habit of staring at her before running around in circles and the clones do the same thing. They are also possessive about toys as was Peanut. Denise intends to name one puppy Peanut and the other with a nickname that she had for Peanut. She believes that the clones have helped her to cope with the grieving process but could never replace her beloved chihuahua.
Would You Do It?
Would you clone your pet? If not, would it be the cost that stood in your way or would you find the prospect of a clone too spooky to cope with? Is cloning the way forward or are you better off starting over with a completely different animal?