Dog Cloning Infomercial on TV

Posted by Pete Shanks January 12, 2012
Biopolitical Times

Last night the TLC network broadcast a fluffy documentary called "I Cloned My Pet" which followed the travails of three bereaved dog-lovers. Peter Onruang and Wolfie were featured on this blog last March. Danielle Tarantola lives in Staten Island, with a mural of her late dog Trouble. And Sheryl Anderson is doing a 10-year sentence for gun-running (and likely other complications), but as the show opened was both awaiting sentence and in the process of having her old dog Blue cloned in Korea.

Tarantola was featured on Nightline and Anderson Cooper in the run-up to the TLC show, presumably as the most attractive (and perhaps available) of the three. Nightline did a better job in six minutes than TLC did in an hour of at least mentioning some of the issues in this "highly controversial industry." They also revealed that Tarantola got a 50% price break because the story was going to be featured on TV. She would have paid the full $100,000, she said (though the show's storyline had her scrambling for the cash), but "I got a deal!"

Inexplicably unmentioned on either TLC or Nightline is that the work on Tarantola's dog was done by Hwang Woo-suk, at his Sooam clinic. Hwang's involvement is confirmed by the image above, which we cropped from a Nightline screenshot. So, one amusing aspect of this farrago is that the great publicist cut his price and got cut out of the publicity.

It seems that simultaneous surrogate pregnancies are part of the dog-cloning technique, so these may be two-for-one deals. Tarantola's new dog is Double Trouble, and, yes, Triple Trouble is coming right along. Onruang's is called Wolfie, and another Wolfie is on the way; he seems to be using the George Foreman naming scheme. The dog we saw visiting Anderson, on a special canine visiting-rights pass, is called Blue Frankenstein II (hey, that was the doctor, not the monster), though previous press omitted the numeral and on the TLC website there is a reference to "Sheryl's first cloned version of Blue" (Blue No. 1). The program was, shall we say, structured for dramatic effect.

Reaction seems to be strongly negative. Jezebel highlighted "the abuse of animals" and called it heartwrenching. And the comments at TLC's site are entirely one-sided: several say the channel should be ashamed, others ask what happens to the surrogates, some call the show "disturbing" and "disgusting," and at least one complains that it promoted animal cruelty, torture and death.

For more, see John Woestendiek's blog and check his archives; he was interviewed by Nightline where he raised both animal-welfare issues and the slippery slope toward human reproductive cloning.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: