BioArts Pet Cloning Company To Discontinue Cloning Services

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After delivering healthy cloned dogs to five clients, BioArts International has decided to discontinue their cloning practice.We first reported on BioArts when Trakr, a heroic 9/11 search and rescue dog, was cloned after his owner won BioArts’ Best Friends Again contest. Since then, however, several problems have become apparent, which CEO Lou Hawthorne outlined in a company press release.

Hawthorne reveals that the pet cloning market is even tinier and more specialized than he assumed. Although he spent over 10 years studying animal cloning and knew the subject was controversial, he was surprised at the number of people who refused to clone a pet even if the price was zero. With demand so low, it was impossible for BioArts to keep prices low enough for people to even consider having their beloved cloned.

A larger problem is the unlicensed competition. Though BioArts possesses a license to clone dogs (which they hoped would protect their technology), it’s proven to be largely pointless, as other companies, notably RNL Bio, plan to offer the same cloning services at a discounted price and without paying the license. The company that holds BioArts’ license has yet to go after unlicensed cloners, leading to a relatively free cloning market.This brings up another issue — ethics.

According to Hawthorne’s statement, “[T]here is no technical way that RNL can deliver clones for $30,000 (an 80 percent price cut) unless they completely abandon all bioethical safeguards for surrogate mothers who carry the clones to term.”

Concern for the surrogates is just one side of this sad story as there’s also concern over what is done with the clones with physical anomalies that make them “undeliverable.”

Hawthorne listed some of these anomalies in his statement (skip over this if you’re squeamish and continue after the jump):

“One clone — which was supposed to be black and white — was born greenish-yellow where it should have been white. Others have had skeletal malformations, generally not crippling though sometimes serious and always worrisome. One clone of a male donor was actually born female (we still have no good explanation for how that happened).”

Hawthorne and BioArts believe that cloning, although supposedly a “mature technology — Dolly (the sheep) was born in 1996, after all,” still has a long way to go before it’s viable as a commercial option — financially and ethically.

However, for those pet owners who have their hearts set on cloning their pup, BioArts offers this advice to Paw Nation readers: “Wait until advances in the technology improve the health outcomes. Any form of reproduction, whether natural mating or cloning or otherwise, results in a certain percentage of unhealthy offspring, but the outcomes in dog cloning are currently unacceptable.

“Even after researchers have improved those outcomes, pet cloning customers should insist on strong safeguards for the welfare of the animals involved, including surrogate mothers and any unwanted or unhealthy offspring. Lastly, we urge pet lovers to keep in mind that such safeguards are costly, and that dog cloning will never be cheap. For the foreseeable future, anyone offering to clone a dog for less than $100,000 is doing so at dire cost to the well-being of the animals involved.”

Plus, three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters across the US, so we urge you to consider those numbers before you try to “revive” your beloved pet. While a new pet can’t replace your furry friend, a cloned version isn’t really a replacement either.

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