South Korea deploys cloned drug-sniffing dogs

ByABC News
July 20, 2009, 8:38 PM

SEOUL -- South Korea has put cloned dogs on patrol to sniff out drugs at customs. Six genetic duplicates of a single Labrador retriever have been working at the country's main Incheon international airport and three other customs checkpoints to deter drug smuggling after completing 16 months of training, the Korea Customs Service said in a statement Sunday.

They are part of a litter of seven born in 2007 through cloning a skilled drug-sniffing canine in active service. They were all named "Toppy" a combination of the words "tomorrow" and "puppy" but one dropped out of training due to an injury.

The cloning work was conducted by a team of Seoul National University scientists who in 2005 successfully created the world's first known dog clone, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.

Leading the team was Prof. Lee Byeong-chun, who was a key aide to disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose purported breakthroughs in stem cell research were revealed as false.

But independent tests later proved the team's dog cloning was genuine.

The agency has said using clones could help reduce costs due to the difficulties in finding dogs who are up to snuff for the critical task of sniffing out contraband. Only about three out every 10 naturally born dogs it trains end up qualifying for the job.