Owners ask cloners for born-again pets

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LOSING A much-loved pet is a traumatic experience for most people who vow never to replace little Tiddles or Rover.

But a Texan millionaire has decided to avoid the heartache of buying another pet when his beloved dog, Missy, dies. He will simply have her cloned.

The unnamed millionaire is paying an American Laboratory $5 million to clone the mongrel and has given scientists two years to come up with the formula, it emerged last night.

Staff at the Texas A&M University at College Green have already received some cells from the part Collie and part Alsation dog, said a report on BBC 2's Newsnight.

Mark Westhusin, director of the veterinary medicine centre, said he thought many other millionaires would jump at the chance to clone their pets.

"I'm sure there are lots of them out there that would if they knew the potential existed to do it," he said. "If you look at how attached people are to their pets - I don't think it's really an unusual situation to say why would people do that."

They may be prepared to do it over there, but scientists in Britain said yesterday that they had refused requests from dog and cat owners wanting copies of their pets.

Dr Harry Griffin, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where Dolly the Sheep was created, said: "We have not been offered large sums of money but we certainly have had a number of approaches by people who want to clone their pets ... we disapprove of going down this road, because it perpetuates the myth that you can re-create an individual through cloning."

Dr Westhusin said his laboratory had also been approached by groups wanting to clone racehorses and pet rabbits. Newsnight also reported that a member of the Saudi royal family was recently approached to fund the cloning of racehorses - a move that would breach the strict breeding rules of racing.

Dr Griffin said there were good reasons for not attempting to clone people's pets.

"The technology hasn't reached that point, and to clone an animal you need a supply of eggs from donor females and surrogate mothers to carry the offspring."