A federal judge in Texas on Monday ordered the American Quarter Horse Association to allow cloned horses and their offspring to be entered into the breed's official registry, a decision that could soon clear the way for the genetically engineered animals to compete at scores of racetracks in the U.S. and elsewhere.
"We're excited. It's been a tough battle," said rancher Jason Abraham of Canadian, Texas, one of two plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleging that the AQHA had violated federal antitrust law and the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act by refusing to register horses produced by cloning.
"We've asked for nothing special," he said. "All we want to do is compete like everyone else, just enter the market."
The AQHA, the official body of quarter horse racing, issued a statement late Monday indicating that it will ask the court to enter a "take-nothing judgment" in favor of the association "based upon the fact that the jury's verdict was not supported by the evidence entered at trial." If that motion is dismissed, it said it will appeal the verdict.
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Nancy Stone, one of four attorneys representing the plaintiffs—Abraham and Texas veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen—said an appeal could delay the registering of cloned quarter horses for about a year if U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson issued a stay of her order in the interim.
Cloning of animals is accomplished by transplanting the genetic information from a cell in a donor animal—either dead or alive—into an unfertilized egg cell whose genetic information has been destroyed or physically removed. In the case of horses, that egg is then implanted into a surrogate mare, where—if everything goes smoothly—it develops into a viable foal.