June 18, 2009

9/11 Rescue Dog Cloned

Five cloned puppies of a search and rescue dog that helped find people trapped in the debris of the World Trade Centers were officially given to their ancestor's handler, reported AFP.

James Symington fought tears as he was given the five descendants of his adored German shepherd Trakr, who passed away in April.

Symington won a competition prepared by BioArts International to locate the world's most "cloneworthy" dog. He hopes that the puppies, Trustt, Valor, Prodigy, Solace and D©jà vu, will follow in Trakr's big footsteps.

"We're here to celebrate that Trakr's legacy lives on in these five beautiful puppies," Symington said to reporters. "If they have the same attributes Trakr did, then hopefully they'll develop into world class search and rescue dogs."

Symington and Trakr arrived at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001 and were one of the first K9 teams there. After working for 48 hours without stopping, Trakr found the last survivor in the debris of the twin towers.

"Trakr was an extraordinary search and rescue dog. His work at Ground Zero was the culmination of his career," Symington said.

BioArts International joined with South Korea's SooAm Biotech Research Foundation to clone Trakr with the help of scientist Hwang Woo-Suk.

BioArts International chief executive Lou Hawthorne said that although cloning is beyond the reach of normal pet owners, people should be able to clone their dogs if they want.

"I think 99 percent of the time people should get their pets from shelters," he told AFP.

"But can we agree though that one percent of the time if you have a one in a million dog and you have the money to pay for it, you should be able to go to either a breeder or a cloner?"

Hawthorne said that Trakr was chosen because of his heroics. "We received many very touching submissions to our contest, describing some truly amazing dogs," he said. "But Trakr's story blew us away."

Symington noted that one of his new puppies, Trustt, was identical to Trakr.

"The physical similarities are uncanny," he told AFP. "He's the spitting image of the Trakr that I first met in 1995. He has exactly the same markings, the way he moves, everything. Very alert, very intelligent and intuitive.

"I respect that cloning's not for everyone. But there are few dogs that are born with extraordinary abilities and Trakr was one of those dogs," he said. "I look forward to the day that these puppies can follow in Trakr's footsteps and play an important role in other rescues, like Trakr did."


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