SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The last time you heard about cloning, you were probably in science class. Some scientists are starting to take this process from the research lab to the marketplace.
“When people ask me what I do I sort of pause and smile and say ‘Well you’re not going to believe this but,’” Melain Rodriguez, a client service manager for Viagen Pets, said.
Like many of us, Rodriguez spends her workday answering e-mails and phone calls from clients, but these aren’t your typical customer service interactions.
"Once the client clones, we always have this special connection with them , so I always get follow up emails and pictures and videos."
Yes, you heard that right. The Savannahian's employer clones cats, dogs, and horses, turning man's best friend into a best friend forever.
At first, Viagen just cloned livestock for business purposes. They expanded to Viagen Pets after the dairy farmers started asking if they could get copies of their family pets too. Rodriguez says the company clones probably two times as many pets now as it did a few years ago.
"Unfortunately our pets lives are so short compared to ours, and I think that's a big reason why people want to do this, They want to extend that bond with their pet."
“We really haven’t heard much about cloning since Dolly the sheep was cloned, and that was 23 years ago if you can believe that.”
Cloned pets may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but you might have passed one on the street without knowing it.
"My cat is you'd never know by looking at him or seeing him. The veterinarian who examined him thought he was a normal cat."
Rodriguez’s cat, Benji, is an accidental extra clone of her friend’s cat. She says the best way to understand the relationship between an animal and its clone is as identical twins.
“We’re finding that the pets have very very similar temperament, personality, and look very much like the original. The markings can be slightly different, so it’s kind of like human twins that have freckles, their freckles are never going to be in the same place. He’s very very laid back and easy going. He’s not afraid of anything. He likes dogs and the original cats the same way."
The company clones dozens of pets each year, and Rodriguez expects the industry continues to keep growing.
“Pets are more and more part of the family. The pet industry is booming. I would do anything for my pets and most people feel the same way.”
If you want a copy of your favorite four legged friend, you’ll have to fork up some serious cash. Cloning a horse costs $85,000, or you can clone a dog or cat for $50,000 and $35,000 per pet respectively.