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Tag: humans

Chinese scientists clone dogs with heart disease — and call it an achievement

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China says it has managed to join South Korea as a world leader in canine cloning — by managing to create a clone of a sick dog.

Longlong, a beagle, was born with a blood-clotting disorder, and that was just what the scientists were hoping for.

The pup is a clone of Apple, a different dog whose genome was edited to develop the disease atherosclerosis, CNN reported.

longlong1By cloning the bioengineered dog, the scientists ensured they will have a good supply of diseased dogs for experiments they say could lead to cures for the condition that causes strokes and heart disease in humans.

Longlong was created by the Beijing-based biotech company Sinogene, which is boasting about having created the world’s first dog cloned from a gene-edited donor.

With Longlong’s birth, and two more clones of the bio-engineered dog being born since then, the scientists claimed that China had matched South Korea as a leader in canine cloning technology. South Korean scientists cloned the first dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, in 2005.

“Dogs share the most inheritable diseases with human beings, which makes them the best disease models to study,” says Feng Chong, technical director at Sinogene.

While the pups haven’t shown any signs of cardiovascular disease yet, their cloning ensures they will get it. Experimental drugs to treat cardiovascular diseases are already being tested on them.

Longlong’s birth combined two technologies: A gene-editing tool called CRISPR with somatic cell cloning technology, the method used to clone Dolly the sheep and later, Snuppy.

Zhao Jianping, vice manager of Sinogene, says the company’s success in dog cloning is about 50%. Two surrogate dogs out of four gave birth to three cloned puppies. The other two did not get pregnant.

Scientists at Sinogene believe their work aids the future of pharmaceutical development and biomedical research and it plans to produce more cloned dogs like Longlong.

“Gene-edited dogs are very useful for pharmaceutical companies,” said Feng. “The supply falls short of the demand every year.”

(Poor little pharmaceutical companies.)

The scientists also say cloning bio-engineered dogs to create puppy clones that will be born with the disease is kinder than the previous method of creating atherosclerosis in lab dogs — namely, force feeding with meals high in sugar.

Scientists, in case you haven’t noticed, have also invented a way to justify just about anything they want to do.

So if you want to hail this as a great achievement in technology, go ahead. I prefer to see it as scientists taking another giant stride toward playing God — giveth-ing life to dogs, only to taketh it away. Mankind may benefit (or at least live a longlong time), but rest assured the biggest gains will go to pharmaceutical companies.

(Photos: CNN)

Scientists learn about aging and memory by monitoring brain activity of sleeping dogs

Researchers in Hungary have found another good reason to let sleeping dogs lie — and maybe for us humans to get more sleep, too.

Both dogs and humans, they say, learn while they sleep.

The scientists placed wires on the head of 15 aging dogs to measure electrical activity in the brain while they sleep. The brain activity, called sleep spindles, has been linked with learning in humans.

The Hungarian scientists are studying how dog’s ability to learn and remember changes as they get older. They hope the study will lead to a better understanding of cognitive ability and memory changes in aging dogs and humans, Voice of America reported.

Ivaylo Iotchey, a neuroscience researcher, says the study represents the first time the sleep spindles of dogs have been measured.

“From studies with humans and rodents, we know that they are extremely useful markers both of memory and cognition but also of aging and activity,” he said. “In the dog, sleep spindles have only been described, they were never quantified, they were never related to function. This is the first time we were able to show that sleep spindles predict learning in the dog.”

The scientists have also found that female dogs, who have twice as many spindles, appear to be better at learning new things.

Senior Researcher Enikó Kubinyi said aging dogs suffer from the same problems as humans who are aging.

“Among very old dogs, up to two thirds of them show signs of dementia, and this dementia is really very similar in a lot of aspects to that of humans, so we could use dogs as a natural model of human aging.”

Dog park humans: A breed apart

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One of the things that strikes you if you spend any time at a dog park is the amazing diversity you see — in appearances, in personality types, in behavior patterns.

And that’s just among the dog owners.

Just as there is a vast array of breeds and mixes, shapes, sizes and behaviors among dogs, there are certain “types” when it comes to the human denizens of dog parks.

So let’s slap some labels on them, shall we?

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Yes, it is wrong. But as much as we tend to slap labels on dogs, it’s only fair to give humans a turn. All in fun, of course. We’re not criticizing any of them (hardly), just making some observations.

All the characters we are about to describe are fictitious, though based on actual observations over the years at dog parks in well over a dozen cities and towns. If one or more bears a striking resemblance to you, old or new friend, it’s purely coincidental. And any exaggeration or irreverence that follows is purely for the sake of humor.

In other words, don’t get mad at me.

DSC06870leashes1The Dog Talker:
This person is constantly talking to their dog — an ongoing one-way conversation: “C’mon Princess, you should you meet these other dogs over here. Oh look, there’s your little friend Barney. And look at this big boy. Do you like him? I think you like him. He looks a little like your friend Bowser, doesn’t he? Let’s play with him for a while before we go home for dinner …”

Often members of this type are also members of another type, making them doubling annoying. The Baby Talkers: “Yesums you’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. Did you step on a burr, oh poor baby, come here, let me see your little pawsie. Awwww, it’s OK little baby. There, there, all better now.”

There is one more sub-category of these talkers, and they are those who actually seem to expect their dog to answer them. They are prone to asking their dogs the same question repeatedly, as if, on the third or fourth asking, the dog is suddenly going to respond with words: “Are you ready to go home for dinner, Fluffy? Hmmmm? Fluffy, you want to go home for dinner? Does Fluffy want dinner? You want to go get dinner, Fluffy?”

The Experts: They can and most assuredly will tell you more than you want to know about training, about breeds, about care, about feeding, about anything. Sometimes they may actually have some expertise. More often, they haven’t a clue. Still, they feel the need to conduct mini-lectures that conclude with something like “And that is why dogs eat grass” or, “That’s how they came to be known as Lhaso Apsos.”

DSC06874leashes1The Device-obsessed: They are the largest, fastest growing group at the dog park, and one of the most dangerous, totally ignoring their dogs as they tap away on their little screens. They really should look up now and then. See your dog? He’s living in the moment. You should try it.

The Social Butterfly: Must meet and engage every dog, and every human, in the park. He or she flits about, asking your dog’s name, your dog’s breed, telling you about his or her dog, remarking on the weather, etc., before moving on to the next dog and person. One of these — they often being the sort that prefers a monologue over actual conversation — recently began talking to me, even though I was on the big dog side of the fence and he was on the small side. Without any response, or any acknowledgement from me, he continued talking, non-stop, to the back of my head, for 30 minutes.

DSC06948leashes1The Loners: They go to remotest corner, avoiding interaction and engaging, most likely, in some fetch — silently, relentlessly, repetitiously, and most often using one of those flinging sticks so their hands don’t get slimy. Both owner and dog, generally something like a German shepherd, seem to tense up if you or your dog approach. Often, the loner person has a loner dog, which brings up a point we’re not addressing here: How a dog’s personality comes to resemble its owners.

The Rescue Hero: The second, if not first, sentence out of this person’s mouth about their own dog is “he/she is a rescue” and it is followed by the dog’s tale of woe in its previous life. His coat was matted, his ribs were visible, he was a bait dog used by dogfighters, he was abandoned and left tethered at a Walmart. Often they weren’t involved in any actual rescue, but merely walked into a shelter and adopted the dog. But that’s OK. It still makes them good people. Just don’t expect sainthood.

The Action Hero: This is the young guy — perhaps an off duty firefighter, or someone who just left rugby practice — who rushes over to fearlessly break up any dogfights.

DSC06981leashes1The Date-seeker: He is there to meet some babes. He will lavish attention on your dog because he thinks you are cute. He seems so nice, but might he be a biter? Exercise some caution before going into a play stance with him.

The Over-protector: These people are constantly coddling and babying their (usually) small dog, hovering nearby and becoming alarmed if play becomes a little rough. At that time, they immediately pick it up, making all the larger dogs want to have at it even more. I’ve seen people show up with their dogs and spend their entire time at the park on a bench with their dog (who might be wearing clothing) on their lap.

DSC06847leashes1The control freak: This person is a strong disciplinarian when it comes to their dog, so strict that their dog is barely able to have any fun. Granted some people use dog parks to train their dogs, but even then said dog should have a little frolic time. It’s not boot camp. Sometimes, they seem to want to discipline everyone else’s dog too: “None of that now. Easy, eeeeeasy now,” they’ll say to other dogs. He or she commonly offers training advice to total strangers.

DSC06849leashes1The Poop-spotter: This person has uncanny peripheral vision — to the point he or she can spot any dog in the act of pooping, even if there are two dogs simultaneously pooping at opposite ends of the park. He or she then promptly informs the owner, “Hey, your dog just pooped, about three yards from the fence, to the left of that fencepost.”

The No Boundaries Dog Owner: These are the owners who clearly believe their dog can do no wrong: These dog owners let their dog get away with pretty much everything — digging, snarling, humping to name a few– issuing few corrections and generally only mild ones. They fail to notice signs that things are getting out of hand until it is too late.

No Boundaries Parents: These are even scarier yet, letting their young children chase strange dogs, run from strange dogs while shrieking, and hug strange dogs. These people might pose a bigger risk than even the Device-obsessed. And if you have a combination of the two, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Often, with these people, their children listen to them with the same disregard their dogs do. No matter how many times they warn little Tommy to close both the gates when he enters and leaves, little Tommy leaves them wide open.

By now you are asking, well “OK Mr. Holier than Thou, which type are you? Or are we to assume you are perfect?”

Far from it.

DSC06880leashes1I am sometimes “the expert,” but only when an unanswered question is looming, and I am sure of my facts, and I feel the information will make the person I am conveying it to a better dog owner. If, while I am talking, they start yawning, or texting, I will stop.

Sometimes I am “the loner,” sometimes “the social butterfly,” depending on my mood — and my dog’s mood — that day.

Sometimes I’m the rescue hero, not the action hero because generally any fights will be over by the time I’m able to make my way over there on my wobbly legs. I will share the tale of where my dog came from, but generally only when asked and without taking credit for any actual “rescue” when all I really did was adopt him. Still, I’m happy to share, and feel it’s important to share, the story of his Korean past, sad as it was.

I’m not the Date-seeker these days, but I’ll admit that possibility may have been in the back of my head — if not ever actually exercised — in earlier times with earlier dogs. And, hey, it might still be lingering back there to a small degree.

Most often, I’m of the type I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Quiet Observer: This is someone like, say, a semi-retired journalist with time on his hands, skilled in observing human behavior, prone to eavesdropping, able to recognize the subtle differences between us, and aware that — above all else — they are what makes life interesting.

DSC06843leashes1So feel free to disregard all this, and just be yourself. It’s true, I’m far more tolerant with dogs than I am with people. Dogs can jump up on me, they can lick my face, they can sit on my lap. People, these days, get on my nerves much more quickly.

Even so, it’s not my place to tell them how — other than observing proper dog park etiquette — they should act. So I almost always stifle myself from saying anything out loud.

When a small child it is chasing my dog, screaming and trying to grab him, I will warn them out loud, “Hey, you might not want to do that.” But I try to not let negative vibes into my head, and try even harder not to let them out of my mouth.

But that said, Tommy, close the damn gates.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Ruh-roh: Scooby-Doo dog treats end up on the human cookie aisle in Australia

scoobsnack

You’d think that — even on the cookie aisle — a mother would think twice before tossing a bag of Scooby Snacks into her grocery cart for the kids.

You’d think that the picture of the famous cartoon dog on the package, and the words “pet food only,” would have given her a clue.

You’d think that, as she loaded the bone-shaped treats into her children’s lunch boxes, she’d realize something was amiss.

But it wasn’t until the kids got home from school and told her they didn’t like the new “choc friendly carob” treats — “yuck, they are disgusting,” they said — that she gave the package a closer look.

That’s when she finally saw they were not only labeled as dog treats but that they promoted “skin and coat health.”

“On closer inspection they are DOG treats,” Tania Toomey, of Sydney, Australia, admitted on Facebook. “It does say that it is pet food only – human friendly but not recommended!”

But she added, “BE CAREFUL the store is very disorganised … Terrible and disgraceful, not to mention dangerous!” she wrote on the store’s Facebook page.

Before we pounce too hard on grocery store management — or the stoner stock boy we imagine was behind the error — consider this.

There are Scooby Snacks for dogs AND Scooby treats for humans, not too mention some other slang applications of the term to describe — Zoinks! — certain illicit drugs.

keeblerscoobygrahamKeebler, a Kellogg’s company, makes bone-shaped Scooby Doo Graham Cracker Sticks for humans, and they come in a box with Scooby pictured on the front.

Betty Crocker, a General Mills company, offers Scooby-Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks — for humans. They come in a box with a big picture of Scooby on the front.

Del Monte makes a version of its dog treat Snausages that goes under the name Scooby Snacks.

Confused? As a rule, if something is called Scooby Snacks (without the “doo”) it is probably a dog snack. If the full name of the dog is used — both the the “Scooby” and the “Doo” — it is likely a human snack, even if it is shaped like a bone and has a large picture of a dog on the box.

Still confused? Well, we all are, but do be careful when asking for Scooby Snacks, because the phrase can also apply to Valium, Vicodin, Quaaludes, and hash or marijuana brownies, according to Urban Dictionary.

Scooby Snacks, in the cartoon show, were consumed by dog and human alike. Some of the show’s cult members/fans are convinced they were actually (well, as “actually” as things can get in a cartoon) weed or hash brownies.

They seemed to be a common solution to many of the problems Scooby and the gang came across. They made everything work out — or at least kept Shaggy and Scooby on an even keel.

We should point out here that dog treats of any type aren’t generally harmful to children or other humans, and that until the makers of rat poisons start appropriating Scooby’s name and image, we are probably safe.

Since the story of the Sydney mom hit social media, many others have admitted to accidentally consuming the dog treats — in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.

A father-of-two from the northern beaches in Sydney bought the dog treats for his young boys. He told news.com.au that the dog treats were incorrectly placed in the snack aisle of his local Woolworth’s and he grabbed them quickly without looking at the packet.

groceryaisleAnother posted a photo of Scooby Snacks for dogs clearly pictured next to packets of human snacks in a grocery store.

Woolworths initially stated that the pet food product was only stocked in the pet food aisle.

Then, store officials admitted that a mix-up had occurred and apologized for it.

Comments from social media users indicate that Scooby-labeled snacks have created confusion among many customers and at more than a few stores.

And in their comments, as always, they’re feeling free to pass judgment.

Some social media users have defended the mother as a victim of grocery store error.

Some have pointed out the product is clearly marked as a dog treat and say the mother should have been a little more alert.

Others have inquired as to whether her children have taken to digging in the back yard or scratching behind their ears.

Today’s question: Can dogs be humiliated? The answer is tutu clear

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Attention all you “dog shamers,” all you dog dresser-uppers, all you dog-dyers, and anyone else who finds it fun and harmless to put your dog in a costume, use him to make a fashion statement, or ridicule him on social media.

You may be making him feel silly, and damaging his self esteem.

The Telegraph reports that animal charities in the UK are calling upon pet owners to cool it when it comes to decorating their dogs.

Among those quoted in the story was Caroline Kisko, the Kennel Club’s Secretary, who said the organization is “not greatly in favour of doing anything to dogs which makes them feel ‘silly.’ Dogs know when they are being laughed at.”

Not exactly a bold stance there — “not greatly in favour?” — but then again the Kennel Club sponsors Crufts, which in 2009 chose this poodle as winner in the Utility Group:

Apparently shaving a dog to resemble a bunch of poofy cotton balls is an accepted exemption from the “let’s not make dogs feel silly” rule.

Hypocrisy and poodle cuts aside, we think Kisco makes a valid point when she says dog owners need to strike a balance between what is done for the dog and what is mere “human vanity.”

“It is not a toy and we need to maintain that a dog is a dog,” she said. “Since we can’t ask them we should err on the side of caution … Why is it suddenly OK to dress a dog up in silly clothing or dye it?”

The answer is social media, which has made such practices, if not more frequent, at least more noticeable.

Decorating dogs is nothing new. I’d guess even ancient Egyptians did it — because it sounds like something right up their alley. But since Facebook and other social media came along, it has brought out the attention-seeker in all of us, to the point that — even if it’s not Halloween — we’ll post photos of our dogs looking silly or doing something silly.

doghamedThat’s not always “mocking” or “ridiculing” them, but often, particularly with the dog-shaming sites, it comes pretty close.

I’ve long had a problem with people dressing dogs for any purpose other than protection against the elements. I draw the line at bandanas, which my former dog almost always wore, and loved. My current dog, Jinjja, won’t let a bandana anywhere near his neck.

Some dogs tolerate getting adorned, receiving dye jobs, and funny haircuts; some don’t. But, as Kisco points out, even a dog who doesn’t visibly object may still be getting humiliated.

“Some will have a reasonably high level of tolerance for that sort of thing. You can get a dog that will love being the center of attention. But some will feel silly. Outfits come under the same banner – whether it’s a silly collar or whatever.

“If someone wants to put a bumblebee costume on their dog for Christmas, that’s fine, but take it off again. The dog doesn’t want to be a bumblebee …”

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, told The Telegraph that she had a problem with grooming techniques and dyes that could cause discomfort or irritation.

“It’s important that dog owners, and groomers, remember that dogs are not fashion accessories to have the latest trend tried out on them, grooming is for the dog’s needs rather than for the owner’s entertainment,” she said.

And Elisa Allen, a director at PETA in the UK, is quoted in the article as saying, “Dogs aren’t bonsai trees to be sculpted into shapes that please us. Many are nervous about being groomed, and dyeing them bright colors puts them at risk for allergic reactions and even toxic poisoning, which can have serious and even fatal consequences.”

Before you start thinking those groups have peacefully united to pursue this cause, keep in mind that the only place they seem to have come together is in the Telegraph article, and that — if there is any newsworthiness here — it’s that there is something all three groups agree on.

PETA regularly crashes Crufts, and the Dogs Trust has blamed the Kennel Club and Crufts for promulgating breed standards that don’t just make dogs look silly, but makes them unhealthy as well.

The article may make it sound as if the groups are harmoniously working hand in hand, but that’s about as likely as a bulldog doing ballet.

No more kissing: An urgent and newsworthy life-or-death warning to all dogs everywhere

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Dear fellow dogs,

It is with great sadness that we issue you this urgent public health warning, but evidence is mounting that licking the face of a human can lead to deadly consequences.

After careful consideration, we are advising that you cease the age-old practice at once: What has traditionally been viewed as a gesture of love and loyalty now clearly poses a direct and immediate threat to our species.

The slightest licking of a human face can lead to mumps, ringworm, salmonella, swine flu, Giardia, MRSA and more.

satireWe know it is hard to resist licking the hand that feeds you, much less slurping that human face leaning towards you in hopes of receiving a good tongue-lashing.

But resist we must, no matter how tempting. That sweet toddler face crusted with remnants of spaghetti dinner? Avoid it. The master who wants you — for some reason — to snag a treat from his or her mouth? Politely decline.

They are germ-filled creatures, and germs must be avoided at all costs.

For now, our concern is with human faces, because they are home to mucous membranes, the path many transmittable disease follow. Human faces are veritable germ factories, but human hands could be even worse.

Do you have any idea where those hands have been?

In an average day, the typical human has wiped his own hiney, scooped up our poop, picked his own nose, scratched his own groinal area, and turned a dozen or so door knobs. And that’s just the beginning.

We, at this point, are beginning to have doubts whether we should continue to allow them to even pet us. We now have that under study and will issue an additional advisory if necessary.

We realize this warning to you is vastly different than the reports your owners are receiving from their so-called news media and studies by their so-called scientists. Those reports tend to only address the dangers we pose to humans, ignoring the dangers they pose to us.

For example, take this week’s New York Post: “The Deadly Reason You Shouldn’t Let Dogs Lick Your Face.”

And those reports tend to snowball, thanks to the Internet, getting blown way out of proportion and repeated by anyone who knows how to cut, paste or share.

So you may have already noticed your human has developed a sudden revulsion to being licked.

Our warning, though, which you will only read here, is based on solid science and sources as respectable as PetMD.

With humans not wanting us to lick them, and us resisting the urge to lick them, we can only wonder how the bond between humans and dogs will play out in the future.

The lick, after all, is the most powerful item in our toolkit, and it is is difficult to imagine how, without it, we will be able to complete our mission — namely, to provide the affection and reassurance humans so desperately need.

While, for now, we can continue to shake hands, cuddle and nuzzle, anything involving the tongue, effectively immediately, is out. Given this void, humans, most likely, will turn to other sources of reassurance, such as Facebook friends who tell them they are beautiful/awesome/loved/in their prayers/etc.

You can’t get germs from a Facebook friend, assuming we don’t count computer viruses.

The Facebook friend could well end up replacing the dog, and that would be a disaster, sending us back to our wolfen days and throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack.

We, the board members of the Department of Human Control, debated long and hard over issuing this warning. There were those among us who felt we should continue licking the faces of people, no matter the health risks. They, however, were a minority and members of the smaller breeds.

As we enter the lick-free era, it is vital that we come up with new ways to endear ourselves to humans — maybe learn to take out the trash, do the dishes or find other ways to make them feel they need us.

For the truth is we have grown to rely on this curious species that wipes its own hind quarters and, often, doesn’t wash its hands as often as it should.

As disgusting and needy as they can be, we’ve grown to love them — germs and all.

(At top, my former dog Ace with my former neighbor Mike; at bottom, Ace’s kissing booth, 2009)

Chinese lab produces what it says is the world’s first “superdog” clone

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Chinese scientists say they have produced a “superdog” clone — and that the technology will enable them to mass produce dogs that are extra strong and extra fast.

And, unless you are a fan of the doggy version of eugenics, you might find that extra scary.

The beagle, named Long Long, was born in May, becoming one of China’s first canine clones and, the scientist’s maintain, the world’s first genetically modified canine clone.

“This is a breakthrough, marking China as only the second country in the world to independently master dog-somatic clone technology, after South Korea,” said Lai Liangxue, a researcher of Guangzhou Institute of Biological Medicine and Health with the Chinese Academy of Science.

The beagle puppy was genetically engineered by deleting a gene called myostatin, giving him double the muscle mass of a normal beagle.

longlongHe was one of 27 puppies created at Sino Gene, a biotech company based in Beijing — all clones of a laboratory research dog named Apple, according to published reports.

The researchers created 65 embryos through cloning, and genetically modified all of them.

Only Long Long had his myostatin deleted.

By combining genetic editing and cloning, scientists say they can produce “superbreeds” that are stronger and faster.

“With this technology, by selecting a certain gene of the dog, we can breed an animal with more muscles, better sense of smell and stronger running ability, which is good for hunting and police applications,” Lai said.

He also suggested that the gene-editing technology could be commercialized and further applied to create dogs with diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s and diabetes, for use in medical research.

It’s just the latest chapter in dog cloning, which has a frightening history and, potentially, an even scarier future.

Efforts to clone dog began in the U.S., with early research at Texas A&M funded by backers who saw cloning people’s pets — often sick, dying or even dead — as a profitable business enterprise.

Canine cloning wasn’t achieved until a few years later at Seoul National University in South Korea when Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone, was born in 2005.

The service would be offered to pet owners by several businesses, only one of which remains, Sooam Bioengineering Research Institute, the laboratory of controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk.

longlong2Twelve years would pass before China became the second country to clone dogs — and clone them with a twist.

Lai says his team will be able to “batch produce” customized dogs through cloning and gene-editing, which in addition to possible military and law enforcement uses, would create an endless supply of dogs for use in laboratories by medical researchers.

The researcher has worked for years on genetically modifying dogs. By mastering cloning, and combining it with his gene-editing, he’s able to endlessly duplicate any successes he achieves.

As with Dolly the sheep and Snuppy the dog, Lai’s achievement is seen as ominous by some.

“It’s true that the more and more animals that are genetically engineered using these techniques brings us closer to the possibility of genetic engineering of humans,” David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, told the Express..

“That does set us on the road to eugenics,” King added. “I am very concerned with what I’m seeing.”

Me, too. Dog cloning raises some significant animal welfare concerns. Technology, especially when coupled with greed or ego, tends to run amok. Eugenics is a nightmarish pursuit, as is its canine version. Creating diseased dogs for medical research is just plain wrong.

On top of all that, this latest twist being touted by the Chinese researchers fails to recognize one simple fact:

Dogs are already super.

(Photos: Sino Gene)