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L.A. gets five cloned puppies with quite a history [Updated]

June 17, 2009 |  6:30 am


Even in the sometimes bizarre world of novelty animal cloning, this case is expected to generate debate and curiosity.

The Northern California cloning firm BioArts International is holding a news conference today to announce that it has cloned a dog that helped searched for victims in the rubble of New York's World Trade Center after 9/11. A retired Canadian police officer, who now lives in Los Angeles, won a contest sponsored by BioArts explaining why his rescue dog, Trakr, should be cloned. He was presented with the five cloned puppies a few days ago.

"Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history," the retired officer, James Symington, wrote in his contest submission.

BioArts said in a statement that it partnered with South Korean cloning specialist Hwang Woo-Suk to clone the German shepherd. Woo-Suk is a controversial cloning pioneer who has been accused of faking human cloning evidence.

In a statement released by BioArts, Symington said meeting the new dogs was an emotional experience: "They're identical -- down to the smallest detail. Few dogs are born with exceptional abilities -- Trakr was one of those dogs. And if these puppies have the same attributes as Trakr, I plan on putting them into search and rescue so they can help people the way Trakr did."

More will be revealed during a news conference later today.

[Updated at 7:50 a.m.: The debate is already beginning. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes its concerns about pet cloning: "Our current knowledge of animal cloning indicates that there are important welfare concerns at issue. Reports on the health and condition of mammalian animals produced by cloning have indicated a variety of anatomical and physiological problems."]

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: James Symington with his German shepherds. Credit: Associated Press