During its own press conference to refute charges made by the AAVS, Genetic Savings and Clone said there have been no miscarriages since it began using chromatin transfer two years ago.
Cloning-related abnormalities have also not been observed, said Phil Damiani, chief scientific officer for Genetic Savings and Clone.
"Everything we've seen where a kitten didn't surviveand our losses are within the normal range of conventional breedingwe've seen in conventional breeding as well," he said.
The death rate in conventional breeding is between 10 and 50 percent. The company would not give an exact percentage for its program because of plans to publish a paper in a scientific journal showing what happened to every fetus it detected by ultrasound.
Another issued raised by opponents is that consumers are being misled. That's because consumers are under the impression that a clone is essentially a carbon copy of the original animal, critics say.
"This is a $50,000 rip off," said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics in California. "They are not going to have the same personalities as the animals [that owners] are trying desperately to preserve."
Cloning companies are also exploiting the emotions associated with pet loss, Miller-Spiegel said. They do this by recruiting clinical veterinarians to promote services to clients with terminally ill or recently deceased pets.
Grieving Animal Owners
Hawthorne denied taking advantage of grieving animal owners.
"We bend over backwards to make sure that people are doing this for the right reasons," he said. "We make it clear on our Web site and in our phone interactions what is and is not possible in cloning."
The company does target veterinarians for sales and provides them with training, marketing materials, and rebates on every order.
In two years the company believes all of its business will come from the veterinary profession.
"We are reaching out to veterinarians in a major way," Hawthorne said. "We feel that's the best way to promote our service, but we don't emphasize this is for grieving patients."
Jon Klingborg, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), does not believe the veterinary profession will be a strong advocate of cloning.
He said veterinarians understand that, just because the DNA is identical, it doesn't mean the physical characteristics are going to be identical.
"We're not going to put ourselves in a position where we're going to have to explain to somebody after they've spent $30,000 to $50,000 to clone their cat why it's not the same cat," he said.
While animal-rights activists express fear that cloning will add to the pet overpopulation, Klingborg does not believe it'll have an impact.
He believes very few owners will opt to duplicate their pets.
Next month the CVMA, which has more than 5,000 members, will meet with Californians Against Pet Cloning, a newly formed group led by AAVS.
Afterward, Klingborg said, the association will develop a position on the recently introduced bill to ban cloning in the state.
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