19 August 2016

Pet Cloning Now Available in North America

ViaGen Pets is currently the only American company offering cloning services for household pets.

Following the successful delivery of Nubia – the first American-born clone puppy, a Jack Russell terrier – ViaGen is now armed to take their global reputation beyond leader for equine and livestock industries and into the homes of pet-loving urbanites.

ViaGen’s subsidiary company Start Licensing owns the original patent for cloning Dolly the Sheep – the first, famed cloned animal in 1996.

The anticipation is that the demand will increase for cloning and genetic preservation of household pets.

“We are the first in North America to offer companion pet cloning and the reaction is extremely positive,” explained Blake Russell, CEO of ViaGen Pets.

“Vets are warming up to the idea. Breeders see it as a way to reproduce their ideal animals. Trainers believe it gives them a dog that seems to be genetically disposed to their work tasks and will be easier to train and perform at higher levels.

“That has significant ramifications say, for homeland security or the military. The rescue community takes the position that cloning adds to the animal population but for the relatively few cloned pets that join families, and right now we’re talking less than several hundred most likely in total, it’s a blip on their radar.  In fact, a number of the donors have been shelter dogs that would be impossible to genetically reproduce any other way, even breeding.”

According to Russell, pet cloning is an option for any ‘dedicated pet lover with that one of a kind pet’.

Over the last decade, while the price tag has been reduced substantially (horse cloning has seen a 50% cost reduction), the cost is certainly not cheap for the average pet owner - $50,000 for canines and $25,000 for felines.

But as time marches on, the goal is to continue to bring that cost down even further.

“Our goal is to make genetic preservation and cloning a feasible option for everyone who loves the genetic attributes of their pet.”

While pet cloning can essentially be done at any age, it is recommended to pursue ViaGen Pets services sooner, rather than later.

“It’s best to do genetic preservation before any health issues arise with the animal,” said Russell.

While the technology has been some 20 years in the works, Russell said one of the greater challenges is that sometimes the process can take as long as one year – leaving empty nesters with a disappointment that they weren’t able to bring home their new addition more quickly.

“Another risk is that the environmental influence on the cloned puppy or kitten is different enough to magnify behavioral differences. Most of the time, the pet owner is amazed at the similarities even though there can be differences in appearance, just as you would see in other identical twins.”

Pet cloning critics have expressed concern over whether the industry is falsely causing pet owners to believe their cloned pet will be ‘exactly’ like the original; ViGen Pets asserts that the pets they clone are ‘very similar’ to the original, but will not be identical.

For pet owners who suffer an unexpected loss of their pet prior to beginning the genetic preservation process, all may not be lost.

According to the company website, a phone number is provided for clients to call and make arrangements and to ensure the body is refrigerated (not frozen) and brought to a family veterinarian to collect tissue samples; the company’s genetic preservation services come with a $1,600 price tag and annual fee of $150 for storage.

Prior to ViaGen offering the service, North Americans wanting to clone their pets used Sooam Biotech in South Korea - the world's first "animal cloning factory."

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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