MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Barbra Streisand is making some waves after she told Variety Magazine she had cloned her dogs.
She used cells from her beloved dog, who died last year, and the clones were born a few months later. That surprised some people who didn’t even know dog cloning existed.
“I didn’t think anything besides cloning a sheep was anything anyone was working on,” says one Minneapolis dog walker.
So, how does dog cloning work? Good Question.
The first dog was cloned in South Korea in 2005. It was named Snuppy and it took scientists 1,000 embryos to make one dog. This was four years after the first cat was cloned in 2001, and a decade after Dolly the Sheep. Since then, scientists have cloned over two dozen species, including cows, deer, horses, monkeys, rabbits and water buffalo.
“That really isn’t keeping your dog alive,” says Burnsville Veterinarian and Theriogenologist Frances Smith. “It’s keeping the genetics alive, but it’s still not Fluffy.”
To clone a dog, scientists take the cells of one dog and fuse those cells in another dog’s egg. That egg becomes an embryo, which is transplanted to a surrogate dog.
According to Perry Hackett, professor of genetics at the University of Minnesota, the success rate is 40 percent.
“It was very difficult species to clone because it has a lot of genes involved and because dogs have unique reproductive cycles,” says Dr. Smith.
The clone is a genetic copy of the animal, similar to an identical twin, but the animals don’t always look exactly alike. They may have a slightly different hair or skin color and facial feature.
“You’re not going to get a 70-pound dog from a 30-pound dog, but it won’t be identical,” says Smith.
The behavior of the animals is often different as well, given the different training and environment.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have criticized Streisand. According to PageSix, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said: “Animals’ personalities, quirks and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis.”
Dr. Smith says the cloned dogs are now as healthy as other dogs and live just as long. But, she’s doesn’t believe dog cloning will become a trend.
“It’s never going to be an everyday occurrence because it’s complicated and very expensive,” she says.