The Telegraph has reported today that dog cloning is to arrive in Britain. They say that a company which claims to have already recreated dozens of dog in the US will be offering their cloning services to British dog owners.
The Telegraph Science Correspondent, Nick Collins, goes on to say that "One British owner will be offered a genetic replica of their dog for free as part of the UK launch of the service, which usually costs £63,000."
The creation of Britain's first cloned dog is a competition (OMG) that will apparently be filmed in a documentary for Channel Four next year.
I don’t suppose we can stop people making these choices if services like this become available but I hope that the reality of cloning is properly explained before anyone goes ahead. Clones are not the exact duplicates you see on the television or in the movies. So many things other than pure genetics affect and influence our looks and personalities. I should know - I am an identical twin, which means I share my DNA with my twin sister. We are essentially genetic clones yet we are quite different people with different looks, tastes and personality traits. There are of course many similarities between us but we are not like one exactly duplicated person.
The same will be true of cloned pets. You will not end up with exactly the same dog that you cloned it from. It will be a different dog, with different personality traits and even different looks.
I think the cost of this process is also a warning about what is going on here. A little clone doesn’t just magic itself out of a petri dish with no harm done. Anything that costs £63,000 does not strike me as an easy process. How many of these dog embryo clones have to be made to get one surviving cloned dog? And where does the gestation period take place once an embryo is finally made? In a surrogate dog, presumably.
In The Telegraph article, Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Developmental Genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said "Many attempts will die as embryos, at any stage, but some as pups, and of course the female dogs used to carry the cloned embryos will have to bear the consequences of being pregnant and losing embryos and newborns."
This does not sound like the kind of process a dog lover would approve of if they understood these implications.
I feel we should let nature alone. Your dog may be one in a million and very special to you but cloning them is not the answer. If you are hoping to continue some kind of championship bloodline, don’t. Nature needs variation and a wide gene pool for optimum health. If you are hoping it will bring a deceased dog back to life or keep that dog in your life forever by constantly cloning them, don’t. Give your heart to a different dog. You may as well as your cloned dog will be quite different to what you are expecting, believe me.
Every dog that comes into our lives is different, unique and special in their own way. You can’t replicate the exact bond you had with one dog and you shouldn’t try to. In fact if you had a clone made of your dog you will surely be disappointed. The clone will not be exactly like the dog it was cloned from. Just like us, dogs are shaped by so much more than just their genetics. How will owners cope with the expectation of getting their beloved dog back only to find they end up with a different dog in almost every way.
We live longer than dogs and this has always been part of sharing our lives with dogs. We may have many dogs in our lifetime. I see this as a privilege… to share my life with different personalities. Each dog teaches us new and valuable life lessons and brings us their own kind of special and unique joy. This aspect of dog ownership should be embraced.