Beginning with Dolly the sheep in 1996, scientists have been cloning mammals. A few for-profit labs now even offer to genetically duplicate your beloved pet cat or dog. This raises a few very serious questions such as: Is cloning ethical? Will a cloned pet be the same as the original? Will the cloned pet experience any long-lasting health effects? Given the huge number of unadopted dogs and cats in shelters, do we have a place in this world for cloned animals?

The urge to clone makes sense: Owners form deep, intense bonds with their pets—whose lives are always over far too soon. However, before taking the sci-fi plunge into cloning, bereaved owners should consider the practicalities.

First is the expense. As of this moment, a cloned animal will cost the average citizen somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 dollars. Though that price will probably come down as researchers learn more about cell biology and other scientific factors. However, cloning will probably never be less expensive than obtaining a pet created the old-fashioned way.

Responsible owners will never justify their actions by cost alone, however. So, it is important to understand exactly what you are getting with a cloned animal. One: Although cloning is a relatively established technology at this point, with some cloned animals being 10 years of age and older, there are still very few cloned animals in existence today. There are insufficient numbers to produce any reliable research into the many potential health defects these cloned animals could suffer from or be susceptible to. I advise people considering this burgeoning technology to proceed with caution, as the long-term effects are yet to be discovered.

Two: Clones are not exact copies. This is partly because, even though cloning replicates an animal at the genetic level, genetics don’t determine everything. Consider the fact that even cloned animals must be brought to term in a living animal’s womb. Tiny differences in maternal hormone levels while the animal is in the womb can have significant impacts on adult personality and appearance. Experiences as a puppy or kitten might mold many behaviors that most of us would assume are “ingrained.” Your cloned won’t come home knowing all the tricks you taught its progenitor. It might not even be temperamentally suited to learn them. When it comes down to it, you may find yourself spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an animal that is no more similar to your original pet than a rescue from the local SPCA.

Which brings up the biggest ethical dilemma to cloning: There are literally thousands of unwanted animals packing the confines of every shelter in America. Many of these creatures are perfectly healthy and even well-adjusted individuals that just need a chance at a normal life. With such a surplus of pets in the world, why would we invest so much in creating a copy of one that already lived and died?

But all that being said, it’s hard to argue with a grieving owner desperate to salve their emotions. The counterpoint to this sensation of loss and suffering is that you are only able to experience it because you loved your pet’s uniqueness so deeply. One could argue that producing a copy of an individual cheapens the value of the unique bond we once had.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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