Barking Blondes: Would you clone your dog?
Now it seems some British dog owners are desperate to immortalize their precious pooch. So they can take comfort that thanks to a South Korean firm due to launch in the UK it may well be possible.
Claiming to have successfully used advances in biotechnology to clone dozens of dogs for wealthy Americans and for the South Korean Police Force, the firm is offering a competition for one lucky British dog owner to win the chance to clone their dog.
This competition and subsequent creation of Britain’s first cloned dog, will be filmed and broadcast in a documentary on Channel 4 next year.
But the financial price is high at £63,000, and could the emotional price be even higher? Critics of cloning technology maintain that owners hoping to create a carbon copy of their beloved dog could well be disappointed, like identical twins the clone will not produce a perfect replica of the original dog.
There are ethical issues to consider too, and the concerns about meddling with nature… it also raises the question is it disrespectful to your beloved pet? Would your precious ‘Fido” like to look down from the ‘rainbow bridge’ in the sky at a ‘shadow’ of their former self?
Contrary to the cloning company’s claims, another concern is that UK scientists maintain cloning animals is extremely unreliable. A healthy specimen sometimes only results after over 100 attempts. Even if the embryo shares the exact genetic code of your dog, scientists warn that a myriad of factors like differing conditions in the surrogate mother’s womb, and the environment the new born is exposed to at birth, will dramatically change some of the characteristics, including aspects of the dog’s appearance and behaviour.
Even if a healthy pup is born, cloning technologies cannot overcome that its ‘phenotype’ will not be identical. There’s also the worry that the owner will treat the pup differently with high expectations and face massive disappointment when their “Fido” materializes into a pooch they do not have any affinity with. What would happen then? Would the owner reject this dog and hand it into a rescue centre already bursting at the seams with abandoned hounds?
Also, there are the concerns to be considered for the surrogate mum. She will go through all the emotional and physical pressures of a pregnancy with a strong likelihood that the procedure may fail, or the puppies born with defects or worse stillborn. Unquestionably, the strength of the emotional bond between an owner and their dog is sometimes greater than that between a fellow human, but does that give us the right to ‘artificially’ create a dog?
Should we not simply resign ourselves that dogs just aren’t genetically programmed to live as long as us. As painful as it is, there’s an important lesson to be learnt in coming to terms with the pain of letting go.
‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb & Jo Good, published by Hamlyn, £12.99barking blondes, cloning, dog care, Dolly the sheep
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