- Dimitropoulos staff
- Business and finance correspondent
When John Mendola’s pet dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decided to clone another.
Mendola, a retired police officer in New York, was working at a station on Long Island in 2006 when a fucking stray puppy was brought to the station.
“The dog’s fur was matte and could not even be washed, and its teeth were in very bad condition, however, she was very polite and grateful,” he says.
After being released that day, Mendola told his colleagues that he did not need to take the dog covered in white fur and coffee to the animal shelter because he would take it home with him.
“It was the best thing I did in my life,” said the 52-year-old.
The rescue dog, who belonged to a breed called See Apsu, loved children and games. Mindola named her a princess after many of the heroines in Disney animated films.
And in 2016, 10 years later, his vet told him his dog had cancer.
Mendola immediately contacted a company in Texas called Viagen Pets and Equine, the first and only American company to offer commercial dog and cat cloning.
Mendola says she learned about the cloning process after watching a South Korean documentary about her.
South Korea is a pioneer in this field, and the first dog was cloned in 2005.
The company took a tissue or biopsy sample of the dog before her death in 2017, and a year later, two copies of the dog were born to a surrogate.
The two young dogs were genetically identical to his dead dog.
Mindola calls them Princess Ariel and Princess Jasmine, another sign for Disney movies: “Stains, hair, everything is almost the same, even behaviors,” he says.
“Do you know how dogs sometimes get up and shake their whole body? They both do it right away, just like the princess did.”
Pet cloning is controversial, but despite its high cost, its popularity is growing.
Pet cloning is on the rise every year, Vegan says, and has cloned hundreds since it was first launched in 2015.
The company pays $ 50,000 per dog clone, $ 30,000 per cat and $ 85,000 per horse.
Of course, this cost is unbearable for most of us, but a number of celebrities have discovered in recent years that they have cloned their dogs or planned to do so.
In 2018, American singer Barbra Streisand revealed that she used Vegan to clone two dogs from her ex-dog, Samantha.
In the same year, The Sun reported that music mogul Simon Cowell, a jury member at a number of talent shows, had cloned three Yorkshire terriers.
There are a number of specific cloning techniques; Usually, the nucleus of a cell from the animal you want to clone is injected into an egg from which the genetic material has been removed and then the egg is stimulated to grow in the laboratory into an embryo.
The embryo is then inserted into the uterus of a surrogate mother to give birth to a puppy, foal or kitten.
By keeping it at very low freezing or cryopreservation temperatures, says Blake Russell, president of Vegan, the genetic material of an animal you want to clone can be stored almost indefinitely before cloning is performed.
“A cloned pet is simply an identical genetic twin, separated by years, decades, maybe centuries,” he added.
His company says it “is committed to the health and well-being of every animal (dog or cat) it comes in contact with and complies with all US laws in this regard.
However, animal welfare organizations have significant concerns for this sector. For example, a number of scientific studies have suggested that clones are more susceptible to disease.
Other critics point to the high rate of industry failure – the large number of clones that do not give birth to healthy and fertile ones.
A 2018 report from Columbia University in New York estimated that the average success rate is only 20 percent, which means you need a lot more substitutes to try.
It can be disturbing and disturbing for both female animals whose eggs are removed for donation and for new animals being prepared for replacement, says Penny Hawkins, an animal care expert at the Royal Society for Animal Welfare.
Plus, when it comes to behavior, the clone is likely not to be an exact replica of the original pet, she says.
“An animal has so much more than its DNA and clones will inevitably have different life experiences, resulting in animals with different personalities.”
Last year, officials in Vegan said 25 percent of an animal’s personality comes from growing or caring for it.
“We recommend that anyone looking for a new pet to become part of their family should adopt one of the thousands of animals at rescue centers waiting to be offered a permanent home,” Hawkins adds.
Elisa Allen, director of the animal rights group PETA (People for Ethical Animal Treatment), urges people to adopt a dog from rescue centers and not to clone.
“The characters, the wonders and the essence of the animals can not be repeated,” she says.
“When you think of the millions of adorable dogs and cats in animal shelters, waiting to be adopted every year, or those who die in horrific ways after being abandoned by their owners, cloning adds to the crisis of homeless animals.”
The PETA Group encourages people looking to have a pet to adopt from these shelters instead of supporting cloning, which is a ruthless, lucrative venture.
As for genetics, Andrew Hessel, another opinion, he says: “Cloning pets, with little ethical concern, if done responsibly.”
“Can anyone say why cloning, when there is so much to adopt?” he says.
“However, you can measure the same argument for human children.”
“Why would you want to have a child when there are so many children in need of adoption? Pets also become family members.”
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On Long Island, Mendola says his two dogs, whom he named Princess Ariel and Princess Jasmine, are in good health.
Before the original princess died, he adopted another dog from the rescue center and named it Bibi. “When I brought the young puppies home, Bibi immediately started with them,” he says.
“I missed the princess and she was happy with them, they are two princesses.”
Pepe died suddenly this year, but Mendola had taken his precautions and was preparing, preserving a genetic material for possible future cloning.