3 Reasons Why Cloning a Hero Dog Was Not a Good Idea

hero dog cloned

Six years ago, David and Alicia Tschirhart, who was pregnant at the time, went on a mountain hike in Escondido, Calif., with their yellow Lab, Marley. When Alicia reached down to grab what she thought would make a good walking stick, Marley raced over to her and started barking.

Marley’s actions saved Alicia’s life. It wasn’t a stick that she was reaching for — it was a rattlesnake.

Sadly, not long after the birth of the Tschirharts’ daughter, Marley was diagnosed with cancer. Although the hero dog didn’t survive it, he lives on…sort of.

Last December, the Tschirharts welcomed a new yellow Lab puppy into their family. Ziggy isn’t just any yellow Lab. He’s Marley’s clone. The Tschirharts paid $50,000 to have another dog who looks and acts, they say, just like Marley.

Ziggy was created by the scientists at ViaGen Pets, the only company in the United States that clones dogs and cats. They did this by inserting a skin cell from Marley into the nuclei of eggs that were harvested from donor pets. To start the embryo’s dividing process, it was given a shock. The modified embryos were then implanted, via invasive surgery, into a surrogate dog who gave birth to Ziggy.

ViaGen Pets charges $50,000 to clone a dog or $35,000 to clone a cat.

Sure, we’ve all probably fantasized about cloning a beloved dog so we’d have a carbon copy of them around for many more years to come. But then we consider the cost and ethics, and for most of us, the idea remains just that: a fantasy.

Still, there’s currently a one-year waiting list at ViaGen Pets. Here’s hoping some of those people wanting to clone their pets become aware of these three reasons why it’s really not a good idea.

1. Adopt, don’t shop (or clone). There are thousands of homeless pets, including plenty of yellow Labs, available at shelters and rescues (find a Labrador rescue group here). You will literally save yourself tens of thousands of dollars while saving a life in the process.

2. The exorbitant cloning fees could help thousands of homeless dogs. Along with the $50,000 ViaGen charges to clone a dog, there’s a $1,600 fee for “genetic preservation,” the biopsy to remove cells from the original dog. Think of all the shelters and rescue groups that would benefit from a $51,600 donation instead.

3. Cloning pets is unethical. It’s opposed by major animal welfare organizations including the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to a 2019 Gallup poll, the majority (66 percent) of Americans believe it’s morally wrong. Considering that 1.5 million pets are euthanized in animal shelters every year, it makes much more sense to save their lives than to create clones that won’t necessarily share the original pet’s personality.

Instead of cloning Marley, I wish the Tschirharts had instead paid his heroic act forward by saving a life — of a doomed shelter dog.

Photo: CC0 (that’s not Ziggy or Marley)

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!