Genetic material sale
uncluttered by rules
ARTIFICIAL insemination has been around for a considerable time now, but with recent questions about cloning, ethics and saving DNA for later use, there seem to have emerged even more questions, rather than any answers. Many people are of the opinion that genetic material is part of the animal concerned and should be relinquished along with sale of the animal - that it does not seem fair for a buyer to purchase a good stud dog only to find litters he has sired popping up two, three or more years later - without his involvement.
First, a few hypothetical queries just to set the scene:
You own a good young stud dog. You have had some of his semen stored just in case of an accident or death. Later, you decide to sell him. Are you still entitled to use the semen?
Or you could have on-sold the stored semen to another breeder before you considered selling the dog. The other breeder may not use it for a year or so - during which time you have sold the dog. Can the other breeder still use the semen or does it really belong to the dog's new owner?
Are the above situations the same whether you sell the dog in New Zealand or overseas?
Or to complicate matters further picture yourself as the owner of a good champion breeding bitch or dog. After a year or two and a few litters you decide that you no longer want to show her/him you want just a pet ... so you have your pet spayed/neutered. But you ask the vet to keep genetic material in storage for cloning (this is closer than you think - read the story in this issue about 'Missy').
A few years pass and you have more time and want to go into showing again. What a shame you do not have your original champion dog/bitch ... but you can have! You have your pet (now elderly) cloned. Now you can have this champion dog or bitch for as many generations as it continues to win championships - you can clone it every few years. The headache for the Kennel Club could come at that time trying to work out some logical rules, or could be even worse later when someone cloned and on-sold litters of duplicate champion pups. How would a judge decide between two (or three or four) identical dogs?
At the moment opinions differ only slightly when viewed from the perspectives of different professions. But for the cloning option none of the experts had an answer. As yet there are no rules or laws as the process is too new and few people have yet had the opportunity to even consider it as a future possibility in their breeding plan. The Kennel Club has at the moment a facility for pups to be registered under 'unusual circumstances'. This may or may not cover cloning - that would "have to be decided as the situation arose", the club representative said.
The Kennel Club's view regarding sale or use of semen is that it is treated as a separate property, much as a pup would be regarded. It is totally acceptable to use or on-sell the semen after you have sold the dog. In this case the vet doing the artificial insemination will certify the labelled semen, which was required to be certified and labelled by the vet who originally took the sample. This is the same whether dog or semen is sold in New Zealand or overseas.
However, the Kennel Club stressed that this does not mean that breeders can not make their own private arrangements. Sales of breeding stock are happening all the time, and all by mutual agreement of the two parties involved.
From Agriquality the information is that there are no laws at all in New Zealand governing the collection and storage of dog (or any other animal) semen, other than common law issues. Therefore it is safe and lawful to treat genetic material as a separate and stand-alone unit. There are, of course, regulations here regarding the import of semen and regulations in other countries that must be complied with when exporting. But these mostly concern health standards and breed issues, pedigree certification and collection or storage standards.
And from the view of an international lawyer who deals largely with stock and genetic material matters, there has never been to date any test case on such a scenario or any need to create laws to cover such events. Until someone in some country initiates a test case on which to base future legal decisions, genetic material ownership, whether semen or other cells, can safely be regarded as an independent unit for sale or storage in any manner the buyer or seller wishes.