More People Are Cloning Their Pets Despite the Cost
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(Photo: Warren Umoh/Unsplash)
For many of us, the topic of cloning animals elicits memories of Dolly the sheep—AKA the world’s first cloned mammal. But cloning technology has seen its fair share of developments since Dolly’s birth in 1996. These days, despite the financial investment, more people are choosing to clone their beloved household pets. 

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ViaGen, a Texas-based firm that purchased the intellectual property to cloning technology in 1998, is in the business of helping individuals and families clone their pets. But it wasn’t always that way. ViaGen originally aimed to improve livestock breeding by “bypassing the genetic lottery” that produces high-value bulls and other animals, according to a new feature by the BBC. Then the company realized it could charge pet owners a pretty penny to “save” their furbabies’ cells (and upsell even more to actually complete the cloning process). ViaGen charges pet owners $1,600 to preserve a single pet’s cells, while the nearly year-long cloning process costs $35,000 per cat and $50,000 per dog. Most clients, ViaGen says, simply opt to save their pet’s cells in case they can afford cloning later in life—though enough clients are opting for complete cloning to keep business booming.

Dolly the sheep. (Photo: Toni Barros/Wikimedia Commons)

ViaGen’s total number of cloned pets is said to be in the hundreds, though the company won’t disclose exactly how many animals it’s produced. “It has grown so much since we first started this, and we’re cloning more and more pets every year,” a client services manager at ViaGen told the BBC. “We’ve got puppies being born every week.” But if pet cloning hasn’t been floating toward the top of your consciousness for a while, there’s a reason for that: “We don’t do a lot of advertising, a lot of it is passed on by word of mouth.” 

ViaGen (and similar cloning firms, like Sooam Biotech in South Korea and Sinogene in China) performs its cloning procedure by injecting a cell nucleus from the initial animal into a donor egg whose genetic material has been removed. The firm then grows the egg into an embryo until that embryo can be safely planted into the womb of a surrogate parent. The result is an identical genetic twin, despite an actual age difference of up to several decades.

Even celebrities are hopping onto the pet cloning bandwagon (though this comes as no surprise, given that they’re the ones who can easily afford to do so). Diane von Furstenburg and Barry Diller controversially had their late dog Shannon cloned back in 2016, while Barbra Streisand used Viagen to produce two clones of her late dog Samantha two years later. TV personality Simon Cowell has also expressed interest in cloning his pups, though that was back in 2019, with no news on the subject since.

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