Sperm Bank Has a Select Clientele--Dogs Only
It boasts a Frozen Semen Newsletter, a mobile lab for on-site sperm collection and clients including police departments and the disabled.
Yes, it’s a sperm bank, but the Canine Cyrobank Inc. of West Los Angeles is a sperm bank of a different kind. It’s for dogs only.
With sperm collected from more than 500 dogs from across the nation, Canine Cyrobank is the largest sperm bank for dogs in the West and among the largest in the world. It is one of about a dozen that have sprouted in the United States since the American Kennel Club authorized in 1981 the registration of litters produced from frozen semen.
Priscilla Stockner, the bank’s veterinarian and reproductive specialist, said the industry has grown quickly in the face of rising costs of shipping dogs cross-country and a demand for top-notch gene pools.
Cheaper to Send Sperm
“Often the dog you want as a sire is on the other side of the country, and it’s very expensive to breed dogs cross-country,” Stockner said. “It is far cheaper to ship the sperm across the country for $60 than to ship a Great Dane for $1,000.”
Most of Stockner’s clients are professional dog breeders or owners who find it easier and less costly to breed their expensive studs and bitches by sperm collection and artificial insemination.
By shipping frozen sperm instead of the dog, breeders no longer risk their dogs dying in airplane storage compartments, a common fear among breeders, Stockner said.
Stockner said her clinic, opened in 1981, also has a tougher screening process for potential donors than some breeders, a procedure that she believes gives clients a greater guarantee of success than with usual breeding.
Sperm Count Checked
Stockner checks a dog’s sperm count, the quality of the sperm and whether the dog has prostate disease, skin disorders or infection of the testes, all problems that may reduce the potency of the sperm.
Officials also require X-rays of the dogs’ dams and sires three generations back to ensure a low probability of genetic hip disease.
“We’re not likely to miss a problem with a dog, whereas a breeder might not know about a problem,” Stockner said.
The fee for up to 10 sperm collections is $260, which includes a $75 annual storage fee.
The sperm bank has collected samples from about 200 California dogs and from another 300 dogs that visited its six branches throughout the nation.
Stockner attributes much of her success to an increased interest in “work dogs.”
Among the bank’s clients are dogs that help the hearing-impaired, dogs that help the disabled by pulling their wheelchairs or other activities, and seeing-eye dogs for the blind.
About a dozen police departments from around the state have also had sperm taken from their police dogs in the hope that the qualities that made the dogs suited for police work will be passed on to their litters.
The service is not restricted to blueblood only, however. About 10% of the bank’s clients are dog owners who want to preserve their favorite mutt for another generation.
“They come in and say, ‘I want a piece of him back in my life,” said sperm bank founder and president Carol Bardwick.
At the bank at the West Los Angeles Veterinary Medical Group, male dogs are brought in and matched up to “teaser” dogs in heat that are rented to the clinic for $25. The ejaculation is captured in a rubber tube that resembles a condom.
And the dogs apparently do not mind the process.
“One lady was bringing her dog quite frequently, and every time she turned onto our street, the dog would just go crazy,” Bardwick said. “Once they know where they are going, they’re very enthusiastic.”
After the sperm is examined and approved by Stockner, it is placed in a 5 1/2-inch-long straw-like container and slowly frozen to minus 196 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen in three hours.
The sperm is then stored until a suitable female dog is found. The sperm can be stored for years--often longer than the breeding life of the dog. It can be shipped cross-country if necessary in its liquid nitrogen and used to artificially inseminate female dogs, Stockner said.
Stockner travels widely throughout the nation to publicize her efforts and share her expertise, giving talks and taking collections in her mobile lab. She also rents a video on her techniques for $25.
She is also due to give a talk at an international conference in Paris this year and has had inquiries from European breeders asking how to start their own sperm banks, according to her Frozen Semen Newsletter and Directory.
“There is definitely an increased interest from foreign buyers,” she said.