Animal rights advocates have been expressing concern over the practice of cloning companion dogs in South Korea, the first country that cloned a dog in 2005 and began a trend that has been growing. Animal cloning is legal in South Korea, but the country has no regulatory framework to monitor it, opening it to abuse.
To clone a dog, labs use the somatic cell nuclear transfer method, in which living cells are obtained from a tissue sample of the dead animal whose human companion wants it to be cloned within 24 hours of its death and unfertilized eggs are harvested from “donor dogs,” and the DNA is removed. After injecting the nucleus from the original dog’s tissue sample into the eggs without DNA, the oocytes grow and differentiate in a lab into pluripotent cells, which are then injected into “surrogate mother dogs,” that carry the eggs to term. Therefore, this is a very invasive procedure that affects several dogs.
Shin Joo-woon, an animal rights activist at Korea Animal Rights Advocates, said to The Korean Herald, “Several other dogs must be sacrificed to satisfy one pet owner’s needs. “Donor dogs must go through multiple procedures for the laboratories to retrieve fertilizable eggs and the surrogate mother dogs must be injected with fertilized eggs multiple times until they are successfully implanted into the dogs’ wombs. It is difficult to say that pet cloning can be ethical under the current circumstances, as it leaves room for potential exploitation and mistreatment… Laws regulating pet cloning and adding transparency in the cloning process are needed to safely conduct the procedures.”
Currently, the Korean Animal Protection Act does not ban or legalise animal cloning, and the laws that limit experimenting on animals do not apply to cloning companion animals commercially. Han Joo-hyun, a lawyer who advocates for animal rights, said, “While a law that specifically mentions the word ‘cloning’ must be added in the Animal Protection Act, a separate law which protects animals that are being tested for commercial reasons is also needed.”