Clone a Cat, Go To Jail
...or at least pay a fine. That's goal of animal welfare activists who announced recently that they are seeking state and federal restrictions on small but growing pet-cloning industry.
The effort has been spearheaded by American Anti-Vivisection Society [AAVS] (in suburban Philadelphia), and takes aim at companies such as Genetic Savings and Clone Inc., California company that began to fill orders for cloned cats last year. The clones - which have sold for $50,000 each - are genetic duplicates of a customer's deceased pet and represent leading edge of an emerging sector that advocates predict could eventually reap billions of dollars for corporate cloners. The movie, 6th Day , starring erstwhile governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, features pet cloning businesses in a shopping mall during its opening sequences. It may soon be case that life imitates art in this respect and pet cloning franchises may start popping up in common shopping venues. But not if AAVS have their way.
Should Cloning Be Allowed?
Several companies are racing to compete with Genetic Savings and Clone, current industry leader, which has produced about a half-dozen cloned cats and aims to achieve more difficult goal of cloning a dog this year. Some companies are already selling fish genetically engineered to glow in dark, while one has said it will soon produce cats engineered to not cause reactions in people allergic to them.
The AAVS petitioned Department of Agriculture to regulate pet-cloning companies as it does other animal research labs under Animal Welfare Act. The act demands minimum standards of animal care and detailed reporting of fates of laboratory animals. They have also been working with a California lawmaker to introduce state legislation that would ban sale of cloned or genetically engineered pets.
Are Grieving Pet Owners Being Taken Advantage Of?
"Pet cloning companies offer false hope of never having to let go of a pet and are causing harm to animals in process," AAVS concluded in a report, "Pet Cloning: Separating Facts From Fluff."
Managers of Genetics Savings and Clone denied emphatically that their enterprise takes advantage of grieving pet owners or harms animals. "We bend over backwards to make sure people are doing this for right reasons," said company president Lou Hawthorne. Nonetheless, he said, "we're open to additional oversight, provided it makes sense."
The Risks Involved For Cloned Animals
Previously cloned animals have suffered high rates of biological abnormalities and unexpected deaths during gestation and in first days of life. Hawthorne said that has not been case with cats. But critics said process raises other concerns, including welfare of egg donor and surrogate-mother animals that must undergo multiple surgeries as part of process of making clones.