Thursday, January 1, 2009

Company that Went Bust Cloning Cats is Now Cloning Dogs

Today's NY Times story, "Beloved Pets Everlasting?" highlights Lou Hawthorne's "successful" attempt to clone his mother's dog Missy. It's not in the Science section, as one might imagine a cloning story would be, but in Home and Garden, under Living Together. That's strange in itself.

Animal lovers may remember Hawthorne from his last cloning company. He ran the Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone, which was in the business of cloning cats.  That company was also founded as a result of the efforts to clone Missy.  But dog cloning proved more difficult than cats.

Instead of cloning Missy, Tabouli and Baba Ganoush were born after being cloned from Hawthorne's son's one-year-old female Bengal cat. In 2004, he delivered the world's first commercially cloned cat, Little Nicky, who was sold to a Texas woman for a $50,000. In 2006 the company went bust and Hawthorne was forced to notify all of the sad people that put out $50,000 that in fact, they would not be receiving a replica of their favorite kitty.

The company spurred widespread debate regarding the ethics and morality of pet cloning especially in light of the fact that animals are euthanized by their owners every day.

So now he has "successfully" cloned Missy. There is Mira and MissyToo, who don't really look or act exactly like the orignial Missy, he says. Hawthorne's mom has MissyToo, but the dog doesn't live in her home - after all, she had already adopted and fell in love with another puppy after Missy died. And anyway, MissyToo isn't really like her original Missy. So MissyToo is relegated to live with a handler in her very wealthy companion's pied-a-terre.

“It’s kind of weird,” Mr. Hawthorne says in the article. “They spent 10 years waiting for this to happen and then they don’t even want the dogs living with them."

Meanwhile, Nina and Ed Otto paid $155,000 to clone their labrador Lancelot. But the puppy has to be flown back from Korea before they can see him.

Is this weird or what? Isn't the memory of a beloved pet enough? And how long before we Hawthorne's new venture goes bust after dashing people's dreams?

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