Scientists from Seoul National University and at least two South Korea research companies have been cloning dogs for research and commercial purposes for years now.
Sooam Biotech can clone your dog for $100,000, or preserve your pet's DNA for $3,000 until you are ready to pay the whole amount.
Too much? Then take Option B.
Cuddle Clones from Louisville, Kentucky can produce life-like replica of a pet dog, cat, rabbit and even horse as plush toys from $129 to $199 only.
Pet cloning is a service available to people who want and can pay to continue the legacy of a pet they cherish.
In October 17, 2004, science gave birth to the first commercially cloned pet – a cat named Little Nicky. He was produced from the DNA of a 19-year-old Maine Coon named Nicky who died in 2003. The woman from Texas who ordered the procedure paid $50,000 to the now-defunct California-based Genetic Savings & Clone.
Then, in 2005, Sooam Biotech's Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, who was then a professor at Seoul National University, and his colleague Dr. Lee Byeong-Chun led a university research team that successfully created the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy.
Snuppy is an Afghan hound clone created using a cell from an ear of an adult Afghan hound named Tai who was a pet of a professor at the veterinary school. The cloning of Snuppy involved 123 surrogate mothers, of which only three produced pups. Snuppy was the sole survivor and his birth was hailed by Time Magazine as the Most Amazing Invention of 2005. As for his name, it's a combination of the university's initial and the word puppy.
In April 2015, Snuppy will turn 10 just like Little Nicky.
In 2007, Hwang continued the multi-million dollar funded work of an American involved with the “Missyplicity Project” of Genetic Savings & Clone. Since the late 1990s, efforts to clone Missy, a border collie mix, has been unsuccessful but it reportedly took Sooam Biotech one try to produce four Missy clone puppies.
Since then, Hwang's lab has produced hundreds of cloned puppies. Last October, Bloomberg Business covered him performing in China a Caesarean operation to a large mutt that was the surrogate of three Tibetan mastiff clone pups.
Another South Korean company, RNL Bio, which is involved in stem cell storage and therapy is also into commercial cloning of dogs. In 2009, the biotech company pioneered the successful cloning of two dogs using stem cell technology. The experiment, in cooperation with a team of Seoul National University scientists, created two black and white puppies using stem cells from fat tissue of a female beagle.
In the same year, RNL Bio also produced a clone of a nine-year-old dog named Jasmine for a client in the United States.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
The cloning of pets continues to raise ethical questions particularly from animal welfare groups who deplore the amount private companies and individuals pay for the service when the money could be used to save lives of many animals instead. Others raise their eyebrows on pet duplication because they believe clones are completely different animals that only look like the ones that died.
But beyond helping people get a degree of emotional succor through pet cloning, biotech companies are also exploring other significant applications of animal cloning. For example, the knowledge and technology have the potential to create specific kind of animals for specific needs such as police work and disease detection. In addition animal cloning could be harnessed to increase the meat food supply or to safeguard against the extinction of endangered species like the giant panda.
But there's another way to “skin a cat” or a dog without having to deal with the financial and ethical questions hounding the pet cloning practice.
As mentioned earlier, Cuddle Clones runs an online store where people can order 100% customized plush toy replicas of their pets. Cuddle Clones requires clients to upload two or more pictures of the pet they want to be replicated either as stuffed toy or figurine. They should also specify how they want the pet's ears and tail to be positioned, as well as to submit other distinguishing features. Plushies of dogs and cats cost $199, while smaller pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs cost $129. The production time takes at least four months.
Here are some examples of pets and their stuffed toy versions.
The idea of creating huggable stuffed toys in the image of someone's favorite pet was inspired by the company owner's experience when she lost her own dog to sickness. Not ready to forget and let go, Jennifer Graham decided to create a stuffed toy of her Great Dane Rufus. Since then, she has made "cuddle clones" for other pet owners who continue to be emotionally attached to their long lost pets.
But for those who don't want a spitting image of their beloved pet either as clone or stuffed toy, there is always the tried and tested Option C: get a new pet.
Move on and let a completely new pet fill up the vacancy in your life. It's been known to work, especially when the new pet proves to be just as special, or even more, as the one that's gone. -- Alma J. Buelva