15 October 2006
ByAppeared in BioNews 380
A US business specialising in cloning pets is closing its doors. Genetic Savings and Clone, a biotechnology company based at Sausalito in California, has announced to its customers that it will no longer be open for business at the end of this year.
In letters to its customers, Genetic Savings and Clone claimed that new orders for clones were no longer being accepted because it was 'unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets was commercially viable'. In 2002, a kitten called 'Cc' (short for carbon copy) was created from an adult female cat called Rainbow, using the same technique that was used to produce Dolly the sheep. Cc was the only kitten to arise from the 87 embryos originally created, a figure similar to the normal success rates of cloning in other animals. If cloning pets was to be a viable business, the rate of success would have to be improved through developing more efficient techniques, and Genetic Savings and Clone did not accomplish this quickly enough.
Although Genetic Savings and Clone recently lowered its fees for cloning pets from $50,000 to $32,000, it is still unable to clone dogs and has only produced five cloned cats since its launch in 2000, just two of which were sold to paying customers. The first commercially cloned pet was created in 2004, when an airline worker from Dallas paid $50,000 to clone her pet cat Nicky, her companion for 17 years until its death the year before. The resulting feline replica, Little Nicky, was born in October 2004.
Opposers to pet cloning, such as animal rights activists and some biomedical ethicists, also state that the company was not a viable business venture. They claimed that it did not take into account the thousands of strays that were euthanised each year for want of homes, and that the money paid for cloning one cat would be better used in providing homes for these strays. 'It's no surprise that the demand for cloned pets is basically non-existent, and we're very pleased that Genetic Savings and Clone's attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop,' said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States.
Pacelle and others also claim that the company's practices are based on the misuse of animals. 'For every successful clone, dozens fail and die prematurely, have physical abnormalities, and face chronic pain and suffering,' Pacelle stated. 'Cloning is at odds with basic animal welfare considerations'.