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ECONOMY | 28-06-2024 14:37

Dog owners consider spending US$50,000 on cloning, inspired by Milei

PerPETuate Inc, which describes itself as “the world’s first and foremost pet genetic preservation company,” says sales of its cell lines — a type of DNA collection — have risen 15% so far this year. And it's thanks, in large part, to Javier Milei.

Javier Milei’s dogs haven’t been seen in public or photographed in years. It’s not even clear how many of his “four-legged children” currently roam the Argentine presidential residence. And speculation swirls over one of them that allegedly speaks to him from beyond the grave.

Despite the mystery and mysticism around the English Mastiffs, or perhaps because of it, the pooches have become figures of fascination and celebrity. Now, they are also inspiring Brazilian and Argentine pet owners to start the cloning process that Milei used to make genetic copies of his favourite dog.

PerPETuate Inc., which describes itself as “the world’s first and foremost pet genetic preservation company,” says sales of its cell lines — a type of DNA collection — have risen 15 percent so far this year. The process costs US$1,200 and is the first step toward the much more expensive cloning procedure, which goes for about US$50,000. 

Co-founder Ron Gillespie credits Milei for boosting sales this year as his presidency created a cascade of publicity and interest for Massachusetts-based PerPETuate. He estimates his company has received 40 to 50 new clients from Brazil and Argentina combined this year, driving overall sales. 

“Particularly from Latin America, there’s been a surge of new business that’s come from this,” says Gillespie, referring to Milei’s publicity. “It legitimises it when you have a person of consequence who does it and knows about it.”

Gillespie says Milei contacted him in 2014 to start a cell line for his dog Conan, named after the barbarian. The animal died a few years later, but remains a central figure in the president’s life. A Milei biography claims that he communicates with the dog through a mystic.

Milei advanced to cloning in 2017, and the following year, one cell line unexpectedly produced five cloned dogs — a rarity in the niche industry — according to Gillespie, who lives in Hawaii.

A spokesperson for Milei didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Milei keeps his pups out of the spotlight but routinely brings them up in interviews and social media. During his election night victory speech, he thanked Milton, Murray, Robert and Lucas, who are all named after economists Milei admires. He also acknowledged Conan, though it’s unclear if he was referring to the fifth cloned dog or the original. Or both.

He chiselled their faces into his presidential mace on inauguration day, even drawing a shared laugh with his political foe, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Milei says he starts his day by visiting his the dogs in their separate kennels.

Gillespie confirmed one of Milei’s challenges with cloned animals: They don’t get along. The Argentine president has commented in snippets that his dogs are separated into individual kennels within the gated residence in Olivos, a Buenos Aires suburb, to avoid fighting.

“What we find is that when you have multiple dogs or cats, they’re all the same, and establishing a pecking order is a very difficult process,” says Gillespie, adding that training is often required to establish a hierarchy. “They’ll fight and when they’re younger you need to make an effort that they’re kept apart.”

by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg

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