Pet cloning

If you're a pet owner, how many times have you thought, "I can't imagine life without my dog or cat who's been through so much with me?"

What if we told you there's a company providing what some owners see as a second chance with their beloved pet?

They're cloning animals, but not without controversy. Some question if the company can really create a carbon copy of your dog or cat.

Viagen, which is based in Texas, says the first step is collecting your pet's DNA. Once the DNA is stored, clients can move forward with the process whenever they're ready.

Some choose to clone right away, while others wait until their current pet passes away.

Viagen says they have a clear process on cloning animals. They produce an embryo by joining the donor egg taken from another animal with the frozen cells from your animal. That embryo is then implanted into a surrogate animal that will eventually give birth to what the company calls a "genetic twin."

However, there is a disclaimer- Viagen says there could be a variant in personality in the cloned animal you receive. They say a lot of it has to do with nature and nurture - how you're training the animal, their environment, even the food you're feeding them.

So, how much could this cost you?

Viagen says you can clone your cat for $35,000, your dog for $50,000, and your horse for $85,000.

Aside from the hefty price tag, some think it's too good to be true, like Alan Beck, professor of Animal Ecology at Purdue University.

"All cloned animals have shorter life spans and many more health problems than non-cloned animals," Beck said.

He said he worries they could come back with the potential for disease and early death, putting you right back to square one.

Viagen maintains though, on their website, that cloned pets do have normal lifespans. 

Beck also reiterates there's no guarantee on how the cloned animal will look and act.

"Cloned animals do not necessarily and usually don't have the same personality and there's almost always a major variation in appearance," Beck said.

In his opinion, the process of cloning an animal such as a dog raises concerns.

"Many, many animals are used. So you have this big population of unrecognized industry of a dog population that are surgically manipulated and kept in cages, like any kind of commercial or research area, but it's not inspected and there's no guarantee they're well taken care of," Beck said.

According to Viagen, their facilities are inspected and they have their own vet and animal care personnel to make sure the animals are properly cared for. The company adds the dogs are kept in an indoor kennel for "enhanced bio-security and optimal care."

For those who may question the ethics of cloning, Viagen acknowledges it is not for everyone, but says all their animals are provided the highest levels of care and attention. They say cloning is a lengthy process, but to them the outcome is worth it.

So far, the company has cloned more than 100 dogs and the number of cloned kittens isn't far behind.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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