Life After Snuppy: Can I Clone My Pet?

updated 08/22/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/22/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

On Aug. 3 South Korean scientists introduced Snuppy, the Afghan hound who is the world's first cloned dog—and that set pet owners' tongues wagging. What would it be like, they wondered, to clone their own beloved critters? People asked the experts:

Can I clone my cat or dog?

A cat—yes, says Ben Carlson of Genetic Savings & Clone of Sausalito, Calif., the nation's first commercial pet-cloning outfit. GSC says a tiny swab from your cat's abdomen and inside its cheek, overnighted to the firm—plus a $32,000 fee—will yield a cloned kitty five months later. GSC says it has cloned six felines since it began the service last year.

What about my dog?

Not yet. Lead scientist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk used 1,095 embryos and 123 surrogate-mom dogs to yield one Snuppy. Dr. Hwang refused to say how much it cost, but GSC has spent several million dollars over five years on the effort. It hopes to start cloning dogs next year.

Will Snuppy lead a normal life?

Unclear. Dolly, the sheep cloned by Scottish scientists in 1996, survived only six years and had to be euthanized because of a progressive lung disease typical of a much older animal.

If I love the way my dog nuzzles his chin on my knee, could I get a clone to do the same?

Don't bet on it. Personality is shaped by many factors. Texas A&M cloning expert Dr. Mark Westhusin recalls one animal trainer who cloned his docile bull Chance. When the trainer climbed into a pen with the clone, Second Chance, the raging bull "darned near killed him," says Westhusin.

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