How much is that doggy in the window?

Pet cloning is back!

i-e3210937b576727f5c358ed4bc049741-koko2.jpgPets are funny things. Some owners find their pets to be closer than some human friends, other owners never really bond with their pets at all.

BioArts, a California biotech company, founded by ex-CEO of the now defunct Genetic Savings & Clone, is counting on the strength of those human-dog emotional bonds .

I've had several pets during the course of my life; dogs, cats, fish, scorpions, spiders, frogs, turtles, gerbils, and a hermit crab. Some pets were really easy to train and live with and some - well, let's just say some were more challenging. So, I understand the appeal of cloning a beloved pet and avoiding some of the unpredictable personality traits that come with a new animal. I'm sure prospective clone owners are hoping that the cloned pet will have the best and most lovable characteristics of the original.

Still, at a starting bid of $100,000 in the on-line auction, I'd take the chance on training a new puppy.

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A lot of people think that by cloning their pet, they'll get an identical-looking (and behaving) animal. I don't think the people who offer these services disabuse people of those notions either. The dog/cat/sheep/whatever they wind up with will bear some resemblance to their beloved (but since passed away) pet but it won't look identical, nor will it behave identically either.

It's also a huge shame that applicable science is heading down the road of being a "status symbol" for people.

Many behavioral traits do have a strong genetic component and well-known associations with certain breeds of dogs. My dog (shown in the picture), is a cross between a Lab and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and she's obsessive about retrieving. She can't walk by a tennis ball without picking it up in her mouth and bringing it to me. It's genetic and there's nothing we can do about it.

Many people pick certain breeds of dogs because of the behaviors associated with that breed. It's reasonable to expect that a cloned dog or cat would behave quite a bit like the original animal.

I don't think people see pet cloning as a status symbol, I think they just want a return of the original pet. No amount of wishful thinking will make that happen but if the animals look alike, they might be able to fool themselves.

Yes, the cloned pet will look and behave similarly to the deceased pet, but similarly is not identically. It will not be Fido v2.0. That cute head tilt, or some other quirk, that the owner may have found so endearing ... may very well be absent in the cloned animal (I'd also say the probability is quite high that it will be absent). Then there is the dealing with an animal with a shortened lifespan, increased chances of obesity, and immune system disorders ... which makes cloning an animal just a BAD THING, IMO.

Although behavioral similarities are difficult to quantify, genes influence two key components of behavior�intelligence and temperament�which is why golden retrievers tend to behave differently than pit bulls. Of course a clone doesn't inherit the memories and experiences of its genetic donor; it's a unique individual, like an identical twin born later. But if a clone is raised in a similar way as its genetic donor, you�ll probably see behavioral similarities, just as the late Missy's family has seen with Missy's clones.

... you'll probably see behavioral similarities ...

Sure, like I said ... similar but not identical. Which sort of makes it somewhat stupid to pay out the nose for it, IMNSHO. If we're going to argue that a dog from breed X (Golden Retriever for example) will behave in a particular manner, than why not just adopt a dog from the same breed X? Especially if you raise/train dog #2 from breed X in a fashion similar to how you raised/trained dog #1 from breed X.

I'll be interested to see how long Missy's clones survive.