For the modest fee of only $50,000, grieving cat owners used to be able to have little Fluffy recreated. Alas, they will no longer have that option, at least for the time being.
The company that offered the cloning service, Genetic Savings and Clone, was launched in 2000 by billionaire and University of Phoenix founder John Sperling. Sperling had hoped to have his hunting dog Missy cloned, but scientists were never able to accomplish that feat. Nonetheless, Sperling decided to go into the business of trying to help others recreate their dearly departed pets.
Unfortunately, even for the most devoted of pet owners, there’s a limit to how much they’ll pay to have their dearly departed feline recreated. Genetic Savings and Clone’s hefty $50,000 price tag was just too much to generate much interest in their services. The company recently reduced the price to $32,000, but still there were no takers. The company sent letters to its customers last month letting them know that they will have to close at the end of the year. The letters said that Genetic Savings and Clone has been "unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable."
The company’s telephone answering system now contains a message saying that it is no longer taking orders, and it refers customers interested in having their pets’ genetic material frozen to ViaGen, Inc., a biotechnology company based in Austin, Texas.
The first cat that was cloned for commercial purposes was Little Nicky, who was requested by a woman in Texas who was saddened by the loss of her cat Nicky, who had died the previous year at age 17. Little Nicky was created from the original Nicky’s DNA, and cost the woman $50,000.
Since the company began, it was able to successfully clone five cats, but only two of them were sold to paying customers. Reproductive cycles of pets are too unpredictable for consistent and inexpensive cloning, according to Bonnie Beaver, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The ethical and scientific debate over cloning technology has become more and more heated since the sale of Little Nicky, with animal rights activists complaining that cloning cats isn’t necessary because there are thousands of stray cats euthanized each year because they don’t have homes. Those groups were thrilled to hear about Genetic Savings and Clones having to close its doors. Activists say that because cloning techniques are still primitive, the procedures fail more often than they succeed. "For every successful clone, dozens fail and die prematurely, have physical deformities, and face chronic pain and suffering," said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States.
Animal rights activists believe that cloning is at odds with basic animal welfare considerations. "It's no surprise the demand for cloned pets is basically nonexistent, and we're very pleased that Genetics Savings & Clone's attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop," said Pacelle. "It's not just a bad business venture, but also an operation grounded on the misuse of animals."
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