No comfort in pet cloning

president of United Animal Nations and a founding member of Californians Against Pet Cloning

Last November, my beloved Labrador, Davis, died unexpectedly. I was distraught. He was special—a spirited ball hound who charmed everyone. Had somebody offered me Davis’ exact replica, in my grief I may have been interested.

In California, two companies are marketing cloned cats, and one is marketing cloned dogs (despite the fact that no dog has been cloned successfully). These companies promote DNA banking to preserve the genetic qualities of your beloved pet. In December, one of these companies sold the first cloned kitten—for $50,000.

That kitten’s owner is in for an emotional ride. Scientific studies show that cloned animals do not always look or behave like the animal who provided the DNA, and there is no guarantee about health oddities that may befall the kitten.

While the price tag is high for consumers, it is even higher for animals. Cloning is an inexact science, as even those who practice it admit. Studies show that cloned animals rarely survive pregnancy and birth. The few who do survive suffer serious health problems and often die young. Dolly the sheep developed terminal lung cancer at age 6 (sheep typically live 11 to 16 years).

Other animals are used as “surrogates” to give birth to cloned animals. They undergo repeated invasive procedures, like having embryos surgically implanted and fetuses extracted. Because these companies are unregulated, the public has no way of knowing if animals used to produce cloned pets are treated humanely, how many are used and what happens to them.

What is the justification to allow even one of these animals to suffer? Unlike claims made for animal research, there is no societal benefit to offset their use here.

In the backdrop, while companies attempt to manufacture pets, millions of unwanted animals are euthanized each year in American shelters, including more than 20,000 dogs and cats in Sacramento during 2004. Why do we need more? A better legacy to Davis would be for me to give $50,000 to the local shelter and save thousands of lives in his name.

California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has announced legislation to ban the sale of cloned and other genetically modified pets. Please urge your legislator to support this bill, both to protect consumers from expensive exploitation and to stop companies that profit from useless animal suffering.