The Myth of the Hypoallergenic Hound
The Obamas' quest for a hypoallergenic dog looks doomed. According to a story in today's Vancouver Sun, there is no such thing.
"It is a common misconception that people are allergic to a dog's hair, and it is falsely believed that dogs that shed less will not cause a reaction," the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology said.
"However, allergies to pets are caused by protein found in the animal's saliva and skin glands which gets deposited on the hair. These proteins are carried on microscopic particles through the air as an invisible aerosol. When inhaled, they trigger reactions in allergic people. As all dogs secrete these proteins, there is no allergy-free dog."
Will these tiny airborne truths dash our dreams of Tramp slurping spaghetti in the Oval kitchen?
The Making of Rex 2.0
This month, Reason magazine takes a closer look at BioArts' ongoing efforts to expand and improve dog-cloning. The article provides some nuts-and-bolts details that were new to me and raises intriguing questions about the differences between cloning and traditional breeding. Check out the reader reactions as well.
A $75 Million Bone
If the obstacle to pet overpopulation is money--consider that challenge handled. Orthopedic surgeon, inventor, and 346th richest American Gary Michelson will give $25 million to the brainy someone who conjures a safe, one-time non-surgical means to sterilize male and female cats and dogs. And that's not all. Michelson's non-profit Found Animals Foundation will provide an additional $50 million to support the research into plausible approaches. Michelson and others, including the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, believe an inexpensive, convenient alternative to traditional spay and neuter is the essential missing line of attack in the battle to save millions of dogs and cats from euthanasia every year. My favorite line in the USA Today story on the program is when Michelson says, "No one will stop what they're doing and turn their attention to this problem for $10 million. That's not enough."
A Little Breathing Room for the Pekingese
The United Kingdom’s 135-year-old Kennel Club announced it will review of the breed standards for every pedigree dog due to concerns that these ideals are contributing to serious health problems. (First up, reevaluating the flat face standard for the Pekingese, which makes breathing difficult.)
The decision, which has been long in coming, was essentially forced on the club after a BBC documentary in August ("Pedigree Dogs Exposed") cataloged severe illness, pain, discomfort, disability and deformities in purebred dogs -- including champions. As a result of these revelations, the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) withdrew support for the Kennel Club’s crowning dog show, Crufts, and BBC was reconsidering its role in the event. These developments succeeded in capturing the attention of breeders and judges, where struggling dogs had apparently failed.
The next question: What are they thinking over at the American Kennel Club?
Stopping to Smell the Lupines
You probably know about the great work of scat dogs, which help biologists and ecologists by efficiently sniffing out "evidence" of endangered species such as wolves, grizzly bears and right whales. But have you heard of canine flower detectors? In a ground-breaking program, the Oregon Nature Conservancy teamed up with a Belgian Sheepdog named Rogue to track down Kincaid lupine. These dwindling native flowers support the Fender's blue, an endangered butterfly found only in that state's Willamette Valley. The canine surveys will be used as part of a conservation strategy.
Would You Clone Your Dog?
Leave it to Hollywood. This past Tuesday, California screenwriter Bernann McKinney was the first to buy cloned puppies. The five puppies are genetically identical to McKinney's late beloved Pit Bull, Booger, and were sold for $50,000 by Seoul-based RNL Bio. The real sticker price is $150,000, but McKinney received a discount because she made history and promised to help with publicity. Despite having to sell her home to afford the pups, McKinney describes this as a "miracle." She plans to keep three and donate the other two to be service dogs.
With tens of thousands of shelter dogs yearning for good homes, was this really necessary? There are many legitimate nonprofit organizations that thoughtfully breed, raise and donate service dogs. Surely, McKinney could've offered to raise service dog puppies or donate some money to these groups rather than bring five more dogs into the world. How will McKinney feel if all five puppies do not share the same personality or behavior traits as Booger? If you've ever met identical human twins, it's probably safe to say that each of these pups will be their own individual. So if that's the case, what's the point of cloning them in the first place?
What will the long-term effects be for these puppies? Will they be showered with attention and adored forever or just as long as they're little novelties? Will their health prematurely break down like Dolly the cloned sheep? Her life expectancy was only half that of a traditionally bred sheep. When we choose to clone animals, are we prepared to deal with all of the potential consequences?
Would you clone your dog? Why or why not?
Julia Kamysz Lane
Dog Clones Poised for the Assembly Line
In May, I wrote a post about BioArts' successful efforts to clone dogs. Well, not three months later, there are two dog-cloning companies in South Korea ramping up for big business. According to a story in today's International Herald Tribune, they've already produced more than 50 cloned dogs between them. Choe Sang-Hun writes that while the idea of replacing a beloved companion is what has captured public interest, the real commercial potential for these labs is in "mass-producing dogs for medical research and as service animals." Let the alarm-bells sound!
Human Yawns "Contagious" for Dogs
Recent research has revealed that dogs can "catch" yawns from humans. Apparently, it's the first demonstration that canines are stimulated to yawn at the sight of a person yawning. Not only does this put them in a heretofore primate-only club, according to the researchers, this is also the first evidence that dogs have the capacity to empathize with humans. Very cool. Now, I'm wondering: Can catch a yawn from my dog?
Check out the cover story in the New York Times Magazine today on pet pharma. A state-of-the-state on the booming pet-med industry (particularly in the area of behavior-modification) quickly becomes a thought-provoking analysis of animal minds. Setting aside the notion that more and more we rely on pills to cope with dog problems we create or fail to address through training, it’s fascinating to consider what it reveals when dogs and cats respond well to anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs developed for human brains.
Dog Is My Co-Pilot…Again?
BioArts, a California biotech company, will auction five opportunities to clone dogs on June 18. Bidding in the venture it calls Best Friends Again starts at $100,000 per dog. Last I heard, a South Korean scientist’s efforts to clone an Afghan Hound had been discredited. But, according to a New York Times story last week, BioArts’s chief executive has successfully cloned his late Border Collie-Husky three times already. (And that South Korean scientist, Hwang Woo Suk, is part of the team that did it.)
So apparently the how of cloning dogs as been answered. What I can't figure is the why.