Cloning Fido: South Korea's Dog Cloning Industry Raises Ethical Red Flags

People pays upwards of $100,000 to have their dogs cloned.

ByABC News
January 6, 2012, 7:57 PM

Jan. 7, 2012— -- Three years after losing her beloved dog, Trouble, the love of Danielle Tarantola's life returned from the dead.

A new puppy she named Double Trouble is an exact genetic replica of the original, developed in a petri dish by South Korean scientists in what has become a growing, high-tech and highly-controversial, industry of dog cloning.

Cloning first entered public debate in 1996, when researchers at the Roslin Institute in Scotland successfully produced Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal. Dolly opened the door for researchers across the globe to attempt to clone other animals, and there have since been successful horse, deer, cattle, dog and cat clones.

PHOTOS: Cloning Your Pet, and Other Animals

However, the laboratory environment in which these clones are developed, the surrogate mother animals who are charged with carrying the embryo clones to term, and the resulting multiple clones that sometimes have deformities are just some of the animal welfare red flags bioethicists raise with animal cloning.

Tarantola's journey to get Double Trouble started when she was 18 and she got a lovable mutt she named Trouble. She was so enamored with her new puppy, she painted Trouble's face on a wall in her house, printed his face on her pillows and on her bedspread, and dressed him up in an elaborate costumes.

"When I got married ... I had him in a tuxedo," Tarantola said. "I loved him to death. I couldn't, no, I probably did love him more than some people who were involved in my life."

Trouble died when he was nearly 18 years old, and Tarantola was crushed.

"He was like my baby," she said. "I didn't have children, so he was basically like my son. It was terrible. It was heartbreaking."

It was then that she reached out to an animal cloning company in South Korea and the only place in the world where people can have their dogs cloned.

The cost: $100,000.

At the time, Tarantola had recently lost her job on Wall Street and convinced the company to let her pay $50,000 instead because her journey was being chronicled by TLC for an upcoming hour-long special, "I Cloned My Pet," which airs on Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. ET.

"I was willing to do it for $100,000," Tarantola said. "I got a deal."

A few months ago, Tarantola got a phone call from the company's scientists, who informed her that the surrogate mother dog carrying the embryos developed from Trouble's DNA was successfully impregnated. Weeks later, the surrogate went into labor in the middle of the night, and Tarantola watched the birth over Skype.

But not all clients are so lucky. Quite often, the clones do not survive because of abnormalities or multiple clones are successfully birthed and the client only wants one dog -- but those are just part of the reason the dog cloning business is so fiercely controversial.

John Woestendiek, the author of "Dog, Inc.," a book about the dog cloning industry, said the practice is based in South Korea because it's a country with much lower ethical standards for the treatment of dogs than is the United States.

"You can rent [dogs] from farmers for the laboratory and, hopefully, everything goes OK, return them to the farmer, but everything's not going to go OK," Woestendiek said.

Woestendiek said some of the dogs used in the cloning process as egg donors or surrogate mothers are later sent back to the farms where they are killed and eaten. In South Korea, dogs are raised on farms for their meat.