Just last year, American singer and filmmaker Barbara Streisand had her cherished dog, Samantha, cloned.
After the death of the 14-year-old Coton de Tulear, the millionaire celebrity decided to have the pet’s memory commemorated by obtaining genetic material from it and producing identical dogs in the lab which Streisand could raise as new pets.
The two lucky puppies were named Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett. Devastatingly, the unreasonable amount of money Barbara Streisand spent was not enough for the dogs to behave and look exactly like Samantha.
This article discusses the cost to clone a dog and other animals, as well as the processes and ethical issues involved that should be taken into consideration before ordering the service.
The Price of Pet Cloning
Up until 2015, the procedure of cloning one’s pet could only be done in South Korea, so the pet cloning cost was undeniably high. Later on, companies in the USA thrived in cloning pets such as ViaGen and My Friend Again – making the price reduced into half.
Celebrities like Diane Von Furstenberg and Simon Cowell also considered cloning. But how much exactly does cloning your pet cost?
Korean corporation Sooam Biotech Research Foundation which pioneered the process charges $100,000 for the service. Initially, its aim was to clone only endangered species like the Ethiopian wolf.
On the other hand, the American company ViaGen offers the dog cloning operation for $50,000. The two are the most globally competitive dog cloning industries, where the former emphasizes scientific data and raw details, while the latter is more on an emotional connection with the pet.
As for cats, it is much cheaper at $25,000.
Aside from the cloning itself, other fees should also be taken into account like the following:
- Biopsy Kit
First, a sample biopsy kit will be shipped to your veterinarian by the company for the purpose of genetic preservation. Inclusive of all the tools like ice packs, vials, and instructions inside the styrofoam box, the kit is priced at $1,600.
- Veterinary Service
The kit is supposed to be utilized by your local veterinarian in order to extract high-quality tissue cells and the cost of this surgery along with the anaesthesia will depend upon them. For instance, Helping Hands offers this service for $125.
Meanwhile, some institutions provide the same service with their own equipment at $1,300.
- Biopsy Recovery
If the samples were taken from your dog while it’s still alive, then it still has to undergo recovery through staying longer (boarding) in the hospital, which costs $30 a night, and pain relievers which range from less than a dollar per capsule to around $60 per bottle.
- Tissue Storage and Preservation
Preservation and storage of the material are marketed annually. The procedure starts with culturing the cells from the biopsy samples to test if they are usable. Then they will be placed frozen in a liquid nitrogen container. My Friend Again charges owners at $100 – $300 each year.
However, PerPETuate offers storage at an initial price of $500 and $100 for the next years to come.
- Claiming Your New Pal
If you had your pet cloned in Korea as most pet guardians do, then that means you will also have to cover for plane tickets and hotel rooms. The cost to fly to South Korea depends on where you’re coming from. For instance, a ticket from LAX to Seoul Incheon International and back ranges from $400 to over $700.
You will also need a place to stay, preferably in Guro-gu, Seoul where Sooam is located. Pet-friendly hotels in this place range from as low as $20 to over $200 a night.
Pet Cloning Process
Pet cloning takes a series of actions needed to be completed quickly for it to be a success. It is not just pay-and-claim procedure since along with the expensive price comes the waiting and uncertainty of the process. As a matter of fact, hundreds of dogs are out there waiting for their turn to be cloned.
The current wait list for dogs is approximately two months, while six months for cats. Furthermore, it is a trial and error method, which means there is no sure way of knowing that the cloning will be successful.
The first step in dog cloning, according to American Veterinarian, is genetic preservation. This all begins when the client orders a sample of the biopsy kit via the internet with all the tools and instructions to follow.
The obtaining will then be done by your pet’s veterinarian or a nearby company that specializes in the said procedure by obtaining live and excellent tissue from the dog.
Ideally, the surgery is done to pets that are still alive. Special commands are given if your pet has already died within five days.
According to Sooam, the entire body should be wrapped in a wet bathing towel and be placed in a fridge (not a freezer) to keep it cool.
After the first step, the genetic preservation company will test if the cells are viable and will give you feedback within four weeks. Then, the owner is finally free to indefinitely freeze and store the tissue in case cloning may be considered in the future.
When you have already decided to push through with the cloning, you will be asked to pay the amount for the service and sign a contract which will discuss that there is no guarantee your pet will be cloned.
Additionally, the waiting time only lasts for a year. If a year has passed and the cloning has not yet been done, your payment will be refunded.
Creating the genetic identical twin is the final and most complex step. Here, the original pet’s cell is transferred to a donor’s oocyte and a patented electrofusion cycle creates the embryo.
This is why dog cloning is expensive. The procedure is more complex than cloning other types of mammals due to its distinct reproductive processes.
Once the cloning has become a triumph, the new dog is ready to meet the owner after it has at least reached two months and eat, reproduce, play and basically do what any other healthy dog can do.
Despite how far our technology has come, cloning does not always produce perfect results. Subtle appearance differences may still occur.
Like human identical twins, variations may exist such as areas of birthmarks and even spots. And with regards to the animal’s personality which is shaped not only by genes but also by social and environmental combinations, there is no guarantee that your new pet will act in the same manner as your previous one did.
Ethical Issues About Pet Cloning
The future is indeed now, with all these advancements in science and technology. From a biological perspective, it’s like simply a duck laying eggs. But how does pet cloning bump into issues of morals and ethics?
Consider this: you’re about to spend an enormous amount of money to get your pet immortalized for sentimental purposes while a surrogate mother will have to undergo various operations for her eggs – making her more prone to serious complications and even death.
And besides, would you call yourself an animal lover if you would rather get a carbon copy of your pet while many dogs and cats are out there waiting for a family to provide them with food, shelter, and proper treatment?
That is to say, getting a genetic replica of your dog for the sake of your own comfort and satisfaction only increases the number of animals suffering. Also, it’s like agreeing to the statement that your deceased pet is easily replaceable.
With all the culturing, cryopreserving, and cloning expenses, it’s a fact that only the wealthy can have access to pet cloning. So while the market is still not competitive and the prices are still high, it’s the perfect time to voice out the problematic implications of cloning one’s pet.
Can I Clone My Pet?
Obviously, you can clone your pet. Unlike human and farm animal cloning, pet cloning is legal. But the real question here is, should you?
The industry takes advantage of almost every instance here in our world. Are you sure you would let your grief be exploited for their own profit?
Losing a pet is immensely traumatic and painful. One cannot simply move on from such a heartbreak, yet there are countless alternatives in coping rather than having it cloned for domestication.
It’s important to realize that being a responsible pet owner means accepting the inevitability of your beloved’s suffering and death. Acknowledging the reality of death does not happen in just a snap. It takes a lot of weeks, maybe even months or years to move forward.
The tolerance for pet cloning reflects society’s culture of obsession with dogs yet not giving them enough value or dignity. They seem only to be loved for the meanings we attach to these beings rather than for who they really are.
Instead of considering pet cloning, ask yourself, what would your gone pet have loved? It would have probably enjoyed seeing you make new companions by rescuing unsheltered dogs, or even joining pet welfare organizations!
Your pet would have also been proud of you for increasing awareness about the disease it suffered from.
Put all the love that has been left into good use. Just because science and technology say you can do it doesn’t mean that you should. Remember, not everything that is right is also good.