Some owners are turning to science when they lose a beloved companion, but it comes with a hefty fee.
Genetically identical copies, or clones, have been in the making long before "Star Wars." Scientists have been working on cloning for organ donation and grieving families. Pet grief is not excluded from this medical realm.
Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, a South Korean company, was the first to successfully clone dogs. The process takes place in a laboratory and costs a minimum of $100,000.
But owners around the globe--albeit wealthy ones--have jumped at the chance to have an identical bow-wow running around, a twin replacement for a deceased furry companion.
The homepage on Sooam Biotech's website directs owners on what to do when their beloved pet has passed:
1. Wrap the body in wet towels.
2. Place the body in the fridge (not the freezer!).
3. Transport the body to Sooam Biotech within five days of the animal's passing in order to obtain living cells.
The science technology company says they are able to extend the bond with one pet by bringing back its memories in another. They state that they don't just perform research; they also "heal broken hearts."
Around 600 canines worldwide have been cloned since the technology was introduced. The transgenic gene is taken from a skin cell and inserted into the DNA-less egg of a surrogate.
Paula and Phillip Dupont of Lafayette, Louisiana planned ahead of time to clone their aging mutt, Melvin. The first clone succumbed to distemper shortly after its birth, but another attempt led to two healthy puppies. Test tube canines Ken and Henry lived alongside their parent clone until his death.
ViaGen, a technology company based out of Texas, clones farm animals in addition to dogs and cats. Horses, pigs, cows, goats, and sheep are all routinely cloned at this facility. At $50,000 for dogs and $25,000 for cat clones, the prices are not as steep at ViaGen compared to Sooam Biotech. Heartland animals run at $85,000 and up.
Similar to the Dupont's cloning situation, ViaGen takes skin cell samples from the cheek or abdomen. Two months later, babies are born.
A number of animals bred for life in the laboratory undergo surgical procedures to make cloning a reality. Scientists say owners have to be aware of this when they sign up.
It is also important to remember that cloning only reproduces the genetic influence of an animal, while environmental impact still plays an important role in personality development and subtle disparities in appearance.
It's expensive, but if you had stacks of dollar bills to spare, would you clone your pet?