Nonprofits, Lawmakers Address Cat Cloning

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Animal welfare activists and California lawmakers are wary of pet cloning, though they have taken action regarding the practice in different ways.

Neither the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals nor People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has conducted an outright direct marketing fundraising campaign on the issue, though both groups have addressed pet cloning with their memberships.

"We have very serious concerns related to the animals involved in the process," said Stephen Zawistowski, senior vice president and science adviser at the ASPCA, who is a behavior geneticist. "We know based on cloning that has been done with livestock that there are some welfare issues, and we certainly think that at this point the process seems to fall outside of regulatory oversight."

The organization has brought the issue to its donors' attention through articles authored by Zawistowski in the ASPCA's member magazine.

Despite the number of animals in shelters and the rate at which they are put down when not adopted, Zawistowski said, the ASPCA does not link the issues.

"To be honest, the cloning issue has nothing to do with the animals in shelters issue," he said. "The people who are paying $32,000 to have their cats cloned are not going to go to the shelter. In the same vein, if you wanted a pure breed Maine coon cat or Persian cat, you probably won't be going to the shelter."

Zawistowski said its donors and people who want to clone their pets are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

"Many of the people who are interested in cloning their pet actually got it from a shelter, and the reason they want to have it cloned is because it was spayed or neutered or a mixed breed," he said.

Zawistowski said the organization has brought people's attention to it and expressed its concerns, and that is what it aimed to do.

PETA did not speak to DM News about the issue of cat cloning but shared its position in an article posted on its Web site titled, "Put the Kibosh on Cat Cloning."

Unlike the ASPCA, PETA put the shelter issue front and center, starting the article with, "On the same day that experimenters at Texas A&M University announced that they had cloned a kitten, animal shelters across the country destroyed more than 6,000 cats. It's estimated that an equal number of cats died on the streets that day, crushed beneath cars, killed by other animal[s], or taken out by diseases that make their final hours a nightmare of pain."

The piece described the problems with cloning and the health problems that cloned animals may experience. It ends by urging people considering cloning to go to shelters and adopt a pet instead.

Meanwhile, the first crack at state legislation barring pet cloning was defeated in the California Assembly on May 3. The bill, introduced Feb. 22 by Democratic Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, would prohibit the sale and transfer of cloned or genetically modified pet animals in the state. Though it failed by a 4-2 vote in committee, reconsideration was granted.

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