Did Barbra Streisand Set A Bad Example By Cloning Her Dog?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 14, 2018
Posted in Dog
Late last month, Barbra Streisand revealed that two of her three puppies are clones of her deceased Coton du Tulear, Samantha. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Streisand explained that her decision was largely motivated by a friend who had cloned his former pet, “and I was very impressed with that dog.” She was also having trouble finding another Coton with the same curly hair as her pet of fourteen years.
So, right before Samantha died in May of 2017, her veterinarian took some cells from her cheek and stomach. Those cells were then sent to Texas’s ViaGen Pets, the country’s leading source of cloned pets.
Streisand did not disclose how much she paid for the procedure but according to Time, ViaGen currently charges $50,000 to clone a dog and $25,000 to clone a cat. Another service offered by ViaGen is genetic preservation, in which a veterinarian removes tissue via biopsy for $1,600. Pet owners can decide what to do with the stored DNA whenever they want.
Is It Really The Same Dog?
Streisand and dog cloning experts have since highlighted several downsides to dog cloning. “They all have different personalities,” the actress and singer said of her two new puppies, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and seriousness.”
The genes of a cloned dog are identical to the original but their personalities and temperaments will almost certainly differ. And in most cases, “a fairly massive amount of clones” must be produced in order to get one or two that look just like the original, says Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter John Woestendiek. The author of “Dog, Inc: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” told the Washington Post that dog cloning results in a surplus of clones, and it’s unclear what happens to all of them.
In the aforementioned op-ed, Streisand wrote that four puppies were produced from Samantha’s DNA, at least one of which died shortly after its birth.
Demystifying The Cloning Process
Woestendiek’s main objection seems to be the amount of dogs required for producing one clone. The cells involved aren’t just taken from the original dog, he says. Egg cells are actually taken from approximately a dozen more dogs, and then there’s the surrogate mother dogs that carry the unborn pups. “That’s a whole lot of surgeries, on a whole lot of dogs,” Woestendiek added.
Creating so many clones wouldn’t be a problem were it not for pet overpopulation, which has led to the deaths of countless perfectly healthy dogs in overcrowded animal shelters. Dog cloning has the potential to make pet overpopulation significantly worse, since the owners would have chosen to clone rather than adopt.
Sadness vs Selfishness
But what might worry Woestendiek most is the message dog cloning would send to other pet owners. He views the decision to clone as extremely selfish due to the suffering other dogs must experience simply because a wealthy pet owner is lonely. Don’t be surprised if Streisand releases another op-ed in the near future claiming that she was not made aware of the cloning process before she agreed to go through with it.
Sign up for our newsletter and receive more articles and the latest pet health updates and special offers.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan