UK

Animal Rights Groups Slam Cloning Of British Dog, Winnie The Dachshund

09/04/2014 15:12 BST | Updated 09/04/2014 15:59 BST

Britain's first cloned dog has been born after a £60,000 test tube procedure.

The tiny dachshund puppy, weighing just over 1lb (454g), was born in Seoul, South Korea, at the end of last month following a competition advertised in the UK offering the procedure free of charge.

The dog was copied from a 12-year-old pet called Winnie, owned by Rebecca Smith, a cook from west London.

But animal rights groups have condemned the move.

winnie

The animal welfare charity Peta told the Huffington Post UK the focus should be on rehoming abandoned animals, before unnecessarily cloning them.

"Companion animal guardians should consider, instead, how their money might actually help dogs still on this Earth.

Every year, millions of homeless animals are euthanised because of a lack of suitable homes. More unfortunate animals are abandoned to fend for themselves on the streets and are often subjected to cruelty or succumb to starvation, diseases or injuries.

"Although it's understandable that some people fantasise about replicating an adored dog or cat, even if it's successful, cloning can only replicate genetic material.

"Just as fraternal twins are different people, so, too, will cloned animals develop different personalities.

"We cannot resurrect animals, but we can give living animals in desperate need a chance at a happy life."

winnie

But the company that carried out the procedure, Sooam Biotech, has already created more than 500 cloned dogs for owners around the world.

"Mini Winnie" is thought to be the first British dog to be cloned.

The development comes after researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh produced Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult in 1996.

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the Dolly team, told the programme that he believed owners "might be disappointed" by dog cloning.

"I think that the owners might be disappointed - so much of the personality of a dog probably comes from the way that you treat it," he said.

"I think that you would treat a cloned dog, particularly if you had spent 100,000 dollars, differently, so the dog would be different.

"I am sufficiently sceptical that I personally would not have a dog cloned."

Elaine Pendlebury, senior veterinary surgeon for the PDSA charity, said in a statement that they believed cloning was "not an appropriate way" to deal with the loss of a pet.

"We understand that losing a beloved pet is extremely upsetting, and it is important for owners to come to terms with their bereavement over time. Pets are a huge part of family life, providing love and companionship, and the void that can be left can be hard to come to terms with," she said.

"At PDSA we provide support and advice to owners to help them deal with their feelings and come to terms with their loss. We believe that cloning is not an appropriate way to deal with the loss of a pet.

"It is important to remember that manipulating identical DNA does not lead to an identical pet. A cloned pet may look the same but their personality will be different because personality develops through life experiences, including training and socialisation."