A Glowing Error?


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Are puppies that also act as nightlights the next pet craze? For the sake of the long-term health of the industry, let’s hope not.

At the end of April, I read several reports about a team of South Korean scientists who have apparently genetically engineered a litter of beagle puppies that emit a red glow under ultra-violet light. While I think it’s important to point out that the scientists’ aim was not to create a new phosphorescent dog breed, but rather to study cloning techniques that can be used to eventually cure genetic diseases, it isn’t too difficult to imagine a day when Paris Hilton will strut down the red carpet with a puppy that’s custom-engineered to glow the same color as her dress.

This idea seems even less outlandish when you consider the fact that pet cloning services have been available to the public—albeit at an astronomical price tag—for almost five years now. What’s more, genetically engineered “GloFish”—genetically engineered phosphorescent zebrafish—have been on the market since 2003.

Of course, some would argue that the industry has already gone too far by cloning cats and genetically manipulating fish, and maybe they’re right. But as the technology involved improves and spreads, we can easily be brought much further down the path, which could be dangerous.

It’s not that I think there’s anything inherently evil about cloning or engineering pets. Rather, what worries me is that these practices could go a long way towards turning pets into novelties, instead of much-loved members of the family. This would go a long way in undermining responsible pet ownership and would open the industry up to damage from radical animal-rights groups who would like to end pet ownership altogether.

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