Clone Wars

BioArts shuts down, South Korean firm ramps up.
By Lisa Wogan, September 2009, Updated February 2015

Last night, I read “Admiral,” a short story by TC Boyle, about a young woman who dog-sits a cloned dog. Boyle deploys his considerable comic talent sending up the Strykers, who paid $250,000 to copy their prized Afghan Hound, after he was hit by a car. The Strykers also pay the sitter a couple thou a week plus benefits because she was the dog-sitter for the original. They hope to replicate not just nature but nurture. It’s as if they believe with enough money they can cheat death—which we all know is not only impossible but usually leads to trouble.

In a fiction-meets-reality collision, this morning I read that California-based BioArts would discontinue its commercial dog-cloning operation. (“Best Friends Again,” which sounds Boylesque, has delivered five cloned dogs so far.) In a world with so many wonderful, homeless dogs I’m appalled individuals would spend huge amounts of money (between $100,000 and $200,000) to recreate a specific replacement. Of course, my satisfaction that BioArts’s CEO Lou Hawthorne had seen the error in his ways was short-lived. It’s a competition issue that is driving him out of the business. Reportedly, RNL Bio, a company in Seoul, South Korea, is violating patents and offering cut-rate clones. The result has been bad for his business and looks to be even worse for the dogs involved. In a story on Pet Peoples Place, Hawthorne is quoted as saying:

“RNL Bio can only slash the price of dog cloning by ignoring the safeguards we use to ensure the well-being of dogs involved in the cloning process. RNL will not be able to afford an adoption program for surrogate mothers, nor care for unwanted dogs in perpetuity. Instead, for every dog RNL clones, a dozen or more will likely be slaughtered.”

Discover Admiral's fate and other excellent fiction in Best American Short Stories 2008 (edited by Salman Rushdie).



Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.