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To Clone or Not to Clone?

Full disclosure: I FaceTime my dogs on a regular basis. I can’t help it; I’ve always loved dogs. In high school, I spent my Sundays volunteering at the local animal shelter and this past summer I worked at a doggy daycare, where my job title was “Pack Leader” (which looks killer on a resume). So, you can understand my initial excitement upon learning that people have figured out how to clone dogs.

I mean, what could possibly be better than infinite puppies? Nothing, that’s what. The more I thought about it, however, the less excited I became. Sure, there are some broad issues with cloning; who are we to play God? Is cloning strictly ethical? What are the potential effects that cloning animals can have on agriculture? These are all valid questions that raise a number of interesting ethical, scientific, and economic issues, but which fail to really get at the heart of the problem.

A cursory Google search for the phrase “cloning dogs” nets nearly 1 million results, many of which are sites that offer the opportunity to clone your pet. One such site, myfriendagain.com, promises the opportunity to be “reunited with your best friend.” As far as sentimental advertising goes, this one may take the cake—it immediately summons images of bringing my childhood dogs back to life. This got me thinking: If I could bring back my dogs, would I? Believe it or not, the answer is a hard no.

Even if it were reasonable to spend the exorbitant sum required (often as high as $100,000) to clone the dogs I grew up with, it would have meant my family would never have adopted our current dogs. This would have meant two more dogs left to live in animal shelters, while we enjoyed a pricey reincarnation of our previous pets. This fact--that cloning dogs means bringing more dogs into a world in which there are already so many without homes--is the part of cloning that I have a problem with.

According to statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 4 million dogs enter shelters on an annual basis. Of those dogs, only 35% are adopted, while 31% are euthanized. This translates to about 1.2 million dogs being euthanized annually. Cloning a beloved dog serves only to add another dog to a world where there is already an entire population of them without homes. While one person’s decision to clone or not to clone a single dog won’t make a dent in the statistics, it speaks to a larger ideology that is pervasive in America: Why adopt when you can genetically engineer, be it by cloning or breeding, exactly the dog you want?  

While cloning dogs is, on the surface, both amazing in terms of scientific advancement and awesome because, I mean, more dogs, it serves simply as another means by which people may ignore the massive overpopulation of shelter dogs that need homes.

Every week when I insist my mom stick her phone in front of my dogs’ faces so I can talk to them, I know I’m happy we adopted them, and I’m pretty sure they are, too. So when looking for a dog, rather than dropping a $100,000 so you can send some genetic material to South Korea in order to clone your best friend, at least consider giving a home to one of the millions of dogs without one.

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