On July 26 a federal jury in Amarillo, Texas, began deliberations in a cloning-related lawsuit filed by American Quarter Horse breeder Jason Abraham and veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen, DVM, against the American Quarter Horse Association. Abraham and Veneklasen are seeking to overturn AQHA’s rule 227a, which bars cloned horses from the registry.
On July 30, the jury found in favor Abraham and Veneklasen, stating that AQHA's rule violated the federal Sherman Antitrust Act and the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act, NBC News reported. While the plaintiffs were seeking up to $6 million in damages, they did not receive any money. Abraham, Canadian, Texas, and Veneklasen, Amarillo, filed a lawsuit last year arguing that AQHA’s refusal to allow cloned horses into its registry gives it a monopoly over the Quarter Horse industry. Their attorney, Nancy Stone, said that the rule violates federal and state anti-trust laws.
"The jury verdict does not mean cloned horses automatically get registered," stated NBC News. "But the plaintiffs’ lawyers said they hoped the [AQHA] would allow registration without a court hearing on a permanent injunction."
According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Stone told jurors that registration with AQHA is vital to Quarter Horse breeders, and that AQHA is reducing the supply of top Quarter Horses in the market by not allowing clones to be registered. Abraham and Veneklasen argued that their cloning process—somatic cell nuclear transfer—is similar to in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination.
“The big money is in breeding,” Stone said. “Registration is absolutely essential for a Quarter Horse to be worth anything.”
Wade Arnold, attorney for the AQHA, countered that a cloned horse doesn’t come from a registered sire and dam, which is one of the association’s rules for registration. He stated that the plaintiffs could establish their own registry with their own rules that could someday compete with AQHA.
“[The AQHA] ought to have the right to make their own rules if those rules are reasonable and lawful,” Arnold told the jury.
The AQHA, which has about 280,000 members, maintains the pedigree records of all American Quarter Horses and currently allows horses to be registered that have been bred using artificial insemination, frozen semen and cooled semen. The cloning case could set a precedent for other breed registries.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation currently has no rule prohibiting clones from competing. The Fédération Équestre Internationale announced last year that cloned horses can compete in FEI-sanctioned competitions, a reversal of its previous position on the subject.
Several top performance horses have been cloned, including show jumpers Gem Twist and Sapphire, and eventer Che Mr. Wiseguy. At least two major registries, Studbook Zangersheide and the Anglo European Studbook, accept cloned horses.