Attack of the clone cliches!

A story in the New York Post on Sunday warned New Yorkers about a new threat menacing our city: a pair of cloned collie mixes.

To quote from the story:

Beware the canine clones!

An Upper West Side man loved his pet, Astro, so much, he made a hat out of the pooch’s fur — and cloned him into two more dogs.

Now he defiantly lets his copycat collies run around Central Park without a leash — and neighbors say dogs are terrorizing the Upper West Side.

“This is a tragedy waiting to happen,” said one man who claims the dogs charged at his puppy and bit his hand. “The city knows about this problem and does nothing. The law has no teeth, so to speak.”

I hate stories like this. They are sensationalist and alarmist, feeding every negative stereotype and apocalyptic fear that people have about cloning and other animal biotechnologies. I’m no fan of vicious, unleashed dogs. But that’s true whether or not the dogs are clones. I don’t want aggressive shelter dogs or AKC-registered purebreds roaming around my neighborhood, either.

Of course, the story is a lot less exciting if you leave cloning out of it–in fact, I wonder whether the Post would have done the story at all if the dogs, which the paper repeatedly refers to merely as “the clones,” weren’t the products of a controversial biotechnological procedure.

And yes, I know this is just a silly little Post story, and I probably shouldn’t waste too much breath criticizing it. It’s just that I get so frustrated whenever I read stories like this. Pet cloning raises real issues, and there are important discussions worth having about the practice, but this kind of sensationalism just makes those kinds of conversations harder.

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