Dog Cloning began in 2005 – so why does it have such a low demand? – a23
Dog cloning - would you do it?
The first dog clone was created in 2005 by a South Korean scientist with the birth of "Snuppy" the Afghan Hound. The process is said to involved taking the DNA from the cell of the dog to be cloned and implanting it in a donor egg. The DNA then fuses with the egg and an embryo results. This is then implanted into a surrogate bitch producing a cloned puppy.
You would think that with the advances of science and many people’s deep love for their dogs that this practice would be commonplace by now but it is not. The first published example of consumer take up was in 2008 when Bernann McKinney paid $50,000 to clone 5 copies of her beloved Pit Bull, “Booger” in South Korea. And following that, in 2009 a US couple paid $150,000 to BioArts of California to clone their Labrador, Lancelot.
Though since then interest in dog cloning has been exceptionally low. The reason seems to be a combination of technical difficulties experienced in producing such as complex species as well as ethical issues that have been raised. Even more baffling might be the low demand.
However more than this, a genuinely good question is whether a dogs nature is more to do with it genes or upbringing. While you may want an exact copy of a previous pet, it is very unlikely that you will be able to raise them in the exactly the same circumstance. The resulting different behaviours, as it reacts to different triggers in its environment may produce a decidedly different dog.
So remarkably in the land of the free (AMERICA), there have been very few companies that are interested in cornering the dog cloning market. It is noted that BioArts gained immense media coverage in 2008 when they ran a ‘Golden Ticket’ competition (reminiscent of Willy Wonka) for cloning the family dog, yet it only received 237 entries!
Subsequently in 2009 BioArts ceased its dog cloning division.
Amazingly, the most valid reasons for killing the division is provided by the CEO of BioArts (Lou Hawthorne ) on their website with the article entitled “Six Reasons We’re No Longer Cloning Dogs.”
In summary, he states that the discontinuation was with “frustration and disappointment”.
BioArts first successful cloning was of the CEO’s own dog Missy who died in 2002. In 2007 in conjunction with Sooam Biotech Research Foundation of Seoul, South Korea, Mira was born. In the spring of 2008 three more clone puppies were created.
Lou continues saying that they successfully delivered the fifth set of clones of their commercial auction winners, and all puppies appear to be healthy.
So while the process is not considered easy, the following reasons are what Lou believes to be the main reasons why they had to stop.
1) Tiny Market – as observed by the low number of entries in their golden ticket competition. Ironically for all the people against cloning on ethical grounds, it was James Symington and his dog “Trakr” (one of the five sets of clones) who found the last live human after the 9/11 attacks.
2) Unethical, Black Market Competition – This refers to the ‘incident’ in 2008 when the South Korean company RNL Bio announced it was cloning Booger for $150,000. BioArt believes that this was a “low-ball” price, and may in fact not have even been paid – but was instrumental in lowering the market price for BioArt. RNL is considered to be black market as it does not pay for the patents from the clone technology owners – those who cloned Dolly the sheep. And while the price was listed at $150,000 RNL continually put out statements suggesting that the price would soon fall to near $30,000.
It was with such information that potential customers put pressure on BioArts to drop their prices to what BioArts contents to be an unsustainable level. “there is no technical way that RNL can deliver clones for $30,000 unless they completely abandon all bioethical safeguards for surrogate mothers” (BioArt)
“Conclusion: Jeong-Chan Ra, President of RNL Bio, either drove (BioArts) out of the dog cloning market by ignoring international patents and promising price points he knows he can’t fulfill – in which case he’s as devious as he is unethical – or he has singlehandedly destroyed a high-end niche market by grossly overestimating its size and grossly underestimating the optimal price.”
3) Weak IP (Intellectual Property) – BioArts contends that they could have survived the first two issues if their IP partner was not a “timid and unsupportive one.”
Further the company that BioArts used for its cloning patent was called “Start”. And they felt that Start was “unwilling either to commit to defend their cloning patents against infringers or to grant to BioArts the right to do so on their behalf.”
4) Unscalable Bioethics – They decided not to compete at such low price points, because this would have had to have been with compromised animal welfare.
“At current cloning efficiencies, an average of twelve dogs are needed as donors and recipients to produce a singled cloned puppy.” In the western world BioArts believe that at such ‘low price’ levels would not enable dogs to either be selected or cared for adequately.
This is because in places like South Korea dogs are often traded as a commodity. A BBC report estimated that in 2003, 8,500 tons of dog meat were consumed a year in South Korea with 6,000 restaurants having dog on the menu. Another 93,600 tons are used to produce a medicinal tonic called gaesoju. BioArts could not secure a guarantee in South Korea that donors dogs and recipients of embryos would not be rotated back into the slaughter market.
5) Unpredictable Results – Dog cloning is the most technically difficult of all animal cloning so far attempted. While BioArts stress that the dogs they gave away were 100% healthy, earlier attempts resulted in the following abnormalities:
• A clone that was supposed to be black and white turned out black and yellow/green
• Skeletal malformations occurred
• A clone that should have been male was born female.
• Cloning vendor kennels had a break out of parvo which killed serveral of the “missy” clones.
• Numerous clones were born with parasites (Giardia, Cocidia and Demodex). Treatable but still of concern.
It is noted that these errors occurred in America under strict safeguards and only involving seven orders in two years. If a firm in a developing country intended on scaling up deliveries to make the low price point profitable, it would most likely multiply the birth errors.
6) Distraction Factor – much energy was wasted in satisfying irrelevant media enquiries and ‘exposes’.
Ethnics in the cloning industry
It is clear that both the American and south Korean firms were profit motive firms. Ethics did not enter into the conversation and as it was legal in both countries the concept of ‘playing god’ was up to an individual’s conscience.
Another argument is that with so many abandoned dogs on the planet, why would you spend money cloning a dog? But if this is the full concept, then why would people spend money on breeding pure breed dogs either?
It appears that cloning of dogs is a very difficult skill to perfect. It also appears that there is very low demand for it, at least that was the case in 2009 in America.
Even with technical difficulties and ethics aside, it appears that the home environment and personalities involved in training a dog may have a lot to do with how a dog develops (mentally and physically). If this is the case, then cloning a dog will only get you a dog that looks like you previous dog, but it could act a whole lot differently, which would kind of defeat the point of why most people would choose cloning their dog.
Unless there is more dedicated experimentation, dog cloning technology may remain haphazard for a while to come.
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Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to http://www.dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au
Ref 1 http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/would-you-want-love-your-best-friend-again-again-again
Ref 2 http://www.bioarts.com/press_release/ba09_09_09.htm
Dog Image courtesy of Doctor Who production