Pet cloning: Why do people pay up to R$200,000 to get a copy of their pet? | Pets

In 2018, singer Barbra Streisand told Variety that her puppies, Miss Violet and Queen Scarlett, were clones of Samantha, Coton de Tollard who died in 2017 at the age of 14. The two keep Fanny, Samantha’s distant cousin to the dogs.

She said in the interview that the cells were removed from the mouth and stomach of the dead dog. “They have different personalities than Samantha,” the artist said at the time. “I’m waiting for them to get old and then I’ll be able to see if their eyes are brown and serious.”

Scarlett, Violet and Fanny, Barbra Streisand’s dogs – Photo: Playback / Instagram / Barbra Streisand

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and her billionaire husband Barry Diller also chose to clone Jack Russell Terrier Shannon in 2016. At the time, the couple was expected to have paid $100,000. For Evita and Deena, cloned by a Korean company.

Diddly, Squidly and Freddie – Photo: Play / Instagram / Simon Cowell

Producer and presenter Simon Cowell has announced his intention to watch “copies” of his three Yorkshire terriers, Squiddly, Diddly and Freddy, because he can’t bear to live without the trio’s company, according to an interview with “The Sun” in 2018.

Just like celebrities, more and more people are looking to clone their pets. This is said Melania Rodriguez, director of customer service for the American company ViaGen Pets and Equine, which she has opened since 2015, specializing in the cloning of dogs, cats, horses and even rodents.

In an interview with the BBC in March, she said the company had already cloned a few hundred pets. “There are puppies born every week,” he said. “We don’t do a lot of advertising, and a lot comes from word of mouth.”

Despite the promotion of the topic, the cost is still high. According to the BBC, the company charges $50,000 to clone a dog, $30,000 to clone a cat, and $85,000 to clone a horse.

In Brazil, regulations regarding this practice do not address all possibilities. There are companies that offer the service of freezing the cellular material of the pet, but without marketing the cloning process.

In 2001, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa, introduced the Vitoria cow, the first clone in Latin America. She died in 2011 due to her old age.

In January, the House Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development approved a bill that seeks to regulate the research, production and marketing of cloned pets, which are important to animal husbandry, such as cows, buffaloes, horses, sheep, pigs and poultry. . The price does not include dogs and cats.

The project must also pass through the Committees on Agriculture, Livestock, Catering, Rural Development, Constitution, Justice and Citizenship.

There are a number of cloning techniques, but usually the nucleus of the animal to be cloned is removed and injected into a donated egg, whose genetic material was previously removed.

Pet – Photo: Justin Veenema / Unsplash

Then that egg is stimulated to grow until it develops into an embryo. Then it is transplanted into a type of dog, cat, surrogate, or according to the animal to be cloned. This “mother” will give birth to the young.

If the customer does not want cloning right away, it is possible to preserve the animal’s genetic material almost indefinitely, using cryopreservation, a technique of freezing at temperatures up to -196 ° C.

Cloned pets – Photo: cloning / Instagram / ViaGen pets and horses

According to Blake Russell, president of ViaGen, cloned pets are like twins of a pet, separated by years or decades. The president told the BBC that the company declares it meets all US regulations and is “committed to the health and well-being of all the cats we work with”.

Among the ethical issues with pet cloning is that there are no medical benefits to the pet or its owner, according to Robert Klitsman, academic director of the master’s program in bioethics at Columbia University.

He says the success rate of cloning is only 20%, and that it poses risks to the animal undergoing such surgery. This means putting the alternatives through multiple attempts, many with no results.

“We’re putting animals in harm’s way when no benefit is necessary,” the expert said in 2018 in an interview with ScienceWorld, a publication aimed at young audiences.

Benny Hawkings, an expert with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an association that works to promote and defend animal welfare, agrees with Klersman. In an interview with the BBC, she said it can be painful and distressing for females to have their eggs removed for donation and for those ready for surrogacy.

If an animal identical to a deceased animal is necessary, for some, Klitsmann and Hawkings still caution: the greater chance is that the clone does not have the same personality or physical traits as the “original,” as this could also depend on external factors.

“There is a lot more to an animator than his DNA, and clones will inevitably have different life experiences, which will result in different characters,” Hawking says.

Comparison of ‘original’ and cloned pets – Photo: Reproduction / Instagram / ViaGen Pet and Equine

Even ViaGen itself admitted that the characteristics of pets may be different. Embryologist Denis Miltinovic, director of the Reproduction Laboratory at ViaGen, said in an interview with Massive Science that he would be convinced that 75% of the traits would be hereditary and the remaining 25% would be reproductive. “It depends on my view and my experience with clones,” he says.

His company colleague, Shaw Walker, the initiative’s director of science, is more conservative. “It’s the same genetic makeup, and genes make up all characteristics of an animal, but we don’t know how that affects behavior. What I can say is that I was very surprised by how much genes control behavior, based on customer opinions.”

For those still looking for cloning as a way out, Penny has another suggestion: find an abandoned animal shelter. “We would recommend anyone looking for a new pet to become part of their family to adopt one of the thousands of animals looking for their forever home in rescue centres,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

Elisa Allen, Director of the NGO PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) joins Penny. He told the BBC: “The characters, quirks, and essence of animals cannot simply be replicated. And when you think about the millions of adorable, adoptable dogs and cats languishing in shelters every year, or dying in horrific ways after being abandoned, you realize that cloning is fueling the animal overpopulation crisis. that are homeless.”

For the BBC, geneticist Andrew Hessel disputed this argument and said that pet cloning does not raise many ethical concerns, if done responsibly.

“Someone might say why clone animals when all these other animals are up for adoption?” he said in the report. “However, you can use the same argument with children. Why have your child when all those children are available for adoption? Animals also become part of the family.”

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