[Paleopsych] SF Chronicle: Cloned pet ban rejected: Law would have been nation's first

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Cloned pet ban rejected: Law would have been nation's first

     - John M. Hubbell, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
     Wednesday, May 4, 2005

     Sacramento -- State lawmakers Tuesday turned away a bill that could
have brought a first-in-the-nation ban on pet cloning, moved less by a
host of scientific and ethical arguments than by photos of wide-eyed,
copy-cat kittens.

     The 4-2 vote against the bill with four abstentions by members of
Assembly Business and Professions Committee on AB1428 by Assemblyman
Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, came after a brief discussion that touched on
everything from free enterprise to mad science -- all triggered largely
by a pioneering Bay Area firm's willingness to replicate pet owners'
favorite cat or dog.

     That firm, Genetic Savings & Clone, has created replicas of six
cats, representatives said Tuesday, and hopes to start work on dogs by
December. Pictures of two dark-haired, cloned felines were shown during
testimony by Lou Hawthorne, the firm's chief executive, prompting
committee Chairwoman Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, to inquire of him:
"So you even do tabbies?"

     "We do everything except calicoes," Hawthorne said, citing their
genetic complexity.

     It was not the type of inquiry hoped for by Levine, who framed pet
cloning as a needless scientific incursion in a world where millions of
needy animals are euthanized each year.

     With the practice lacking federal or state regulation, he said,
cloning could not only lead to deformities in the laboratory, but to
unintended consequences in society.

     "What happens when people decide they want to cross their boa
constrictor with their rattlesnake to get a really big poisonous snake?"
he asked.

     "Life is more than a commodity," Levine said, "and this is where we
draw the line. Just because we can doesn't mean we should."

     Crystal Miller-Spiegel, policy analyst with the American
Anti-Vivisection Society, said pet owners should realize that "animals
can't be replaced like a printer." She called Levine's legislation "not
anti-science, not an animal-rights bill, and not based on emotion. It's
simply common sense."

     Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, queried Hawthorne on
claims on a recent Genetic Savings & Clone mailer touting it can clone
an owner's "perfect" pet. "I'm wondering whether consumers are being
pulled into this," Koretz said.

     But Hawthorne said he was "perfectly comfortable" with the
advertisement. "Contractually, we guarantee only physical resemblance,"
he said.

     Hawthorne, who said his firm charged about $23,000 per cat, also
touted the promise of animal cloning one day addressing the repopulation
of endangered species. Christine Dillon, lobbyist for the California
Veterinary Medical Association, said generations of selective breeding
meant that, in all practicality, "vets have been working on genetically
modified animals for years."

     Democratic Assemblyman Joe Nation, whose district includes
Sausalito, where Hawthorne's firm is based, noted that a California ban
on pet cloning would fail to prevent the practice in neighboring states.
Jokingly, he pondered the scenario of a familiar state inspector
intercepting cars inbound from Nevada to ask, "Do you have any fresh
fruits, vegetables or cloned kittens with you?"

     Levine agreed cloning issues should be decided at the federal level,
but likened continued inaction in California to "trying to close the
barn door after the horses are already out."

     But the fears seemed unwarranted to Ken Press of Sacramento, who has
stored the DNA of his recently deceased cat, a 12-year-old Siamese mix
named Kitamus he called "an exceptional pet," with Genetic Savings &

     "I've considered his genetic lineage worthy of continuing," Press
told the committee, adding that neutering the pet proved a mistake.
"Sometimes you make a decision and later regret it."

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