Pet lovers got terrific news recently when Barbra Streisand revealed that her two adorable Coton de Tuléar dogs were actually clones. In an interview with Variety, Ms. Streisand revealed that she had the new dogs cloned from cells of her beloved Samantha, who passed away last year at the age of 14. The procedure set her back $50,000.
Obviously, not everyone has a spare 50 grand lying around to create a facsimile of a dog they can’t bear to part with. But as canine cloning grows in popularity, economies of scale are sure to kick in the same way they did with laptops and 3-D televisions. Cloning speeds should pick up as well.
So in the fullness of time, a pet lover who can’t bear to be away from Mr. Bingley the Bichon Frise for more than a few hours will be able to clone the pet numerous times and leave the copies with friends both near and far. Owners would always have Fido or Fifi eagerly waiting for them, tail wagging, wherever they went. To know that man’s faithful companion would be manning the Welcome Wagon thousands of miles away would make that $50,000 price tag seem like a bargain. And if you’re lucky enough to own a Bichon Frise that doesn’t keep you up all night with its insane yapping, clone the sucker.
Whatever the species, cloned doggies should make great gifts. Let’s say one of your house guests falls in love with frisky Lorelei. Give your friend a duplicate for Christmas. Then you can get it together with the original for play dates.
But let’s not go overboard here. Imagine a world filled with cloned pit bulls or Dobermans. Who needs that? And what if the cloned pet doesn’t get along with the original? What if Golden Retriever 2.0 turns out to be the better pet? Would you just detach the original’s I.D. tag and cut it loose in the wilderness? Questions, questions.
Here’s another problem that’s likely to arise. If your beloved dog bites somebody, it would be awfully tempting to go out, get a dirt-cheap one-hour clone job and let the dogcatcher haul the duplicate off to the pound. The cops would never notice.
Then there’s pet insurance, which costs a fortune. If your cloned dog gets sick and you only have insurance on the original mutt, what will stop you from having Minerva II hospitalized on Minerva I’s insurance? What if somebody rats you out and tells the feds that you’re engaged in pet-insurance fraud? You could end up doing hard time.
Similarly, if you enter your pet in the Westminster Dog Show and the dog gets sick, the temptation to substitute the clone may be overwhelming. Should a prize-winning dog owner exhibit a cloned corgie and get caught, his name would be mutt.
Inevitably, people will experiment with other species. Cloning a pet Siberian tiger is a lot cheaper than paying someone to trap another one for you. And your friends could soon find a perfect duplicate of that cute-as-a-button ferret or that feisty Sahara monitor lizard waiting under the Christmas tree.
But even in the most prosaic circumstances, there are reasons for concern. Clone a parrot, and the pair of them are going to drive you nuts cackling “Polly want a cracker” in stereo all day. Cloning cats won’t work because cats usually hate other cats. And $50,000 is an awful lot of money to shell out just because your favorite goldfish is about to become a floater. Well, unless you’re a goldfish-loving movie star.