Trainer hopes ‘Little Juice’ will be even better than ‘Juice’

Pet owners know how difficult it can be to say goodbye to a furry friend. They greet us at the door when we come home. They lift our spirits after a tough day. They make us laugh without even trying. They command six-figure salaries for their film work. OK, so maybe your pet doesn’t do that last one. But trainer He Jun’s dog Guozhi — Juice in English — is a pint-sized star who has made dozens of Chinese movie and television appearances. Juice is also “intellectual property,” claims He, who has cloned his furry little moneymaker.

Since Juice is neutered, He wasn’t able to breed him. So he did the next best thing: He spent $75,000 to have biotech company Sinogene clone Juice. While China has regulations on human cloning and gene-editing, laws governing animals are more relaxed, and there is no statute dealing with animal cloning. Sinogene began commercial cloning services in June 2018, becoming the first Chinese company to do so. Sinogene CEO Mi Jidong told Reuters the company plans on expanding into gene editing.

“We’ve discovered that more and more pet owners want their pets to accompany them for an even longer period of time,” Mi said.

To clone Juice, Sinogene took skin samples from his lower abdomen and was able to fertilise an egg with DNA from one of the samples. Zhizhi — Little Juice — was born in September and stayed in the lab with his surrogate mother, who nursed Little Juice for a few weeks before Sinogene presented the clone to He and Juice at a ceremony. He, for one, was excited about his new pet.

“We believe he’ll be even better than the older Juice,” He said.

We guess you could consider it a good investment on He’s part, but it raises some interesting ethical questions, not only about cloning beloved pets but doing so to engineer a canine movie star.