Court: Association May Exclude Clones from Prestigious Horse Registry
A federal appeals court ruled last week that the American Quarter Horse Association can refuse to include cloned horses on its breed registry. A lower court had previously ruled that the ban violated antitrust laws.
The American Quarter Horse Association experienced the sweet smell of victory last week when a federal appeals court ruled the association can exclude cloned horses from its official breed registry.
The ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s decision in 2013 that required AQHA to allow breeders to list cloned horses because, the trial court said, the association’s ban violated state and federal antitrust laws. For breeders, a listing on the association’s prestigious registry increases a horse’s value.
On appeal, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit held that the plaintiffs had failed to provide sufficient evidence that AQHA had conspired with influential members to keep cloned animals off the market for “elite quarter horses.”
The dispute stems back to 2004, when AQHA’s board of directors approved a rule banning cloned horses and their offspring from the breed registry for a number of reasons, including that cloning does not lead to improvements in the breed, according to The Horse.
Advocates of horse cloning argued that the process allows them to preserve an animal’s bloodline, a lucrative commodity if the horse is high-performing.
In response to the ban, a Texas rancher and a veterinarian later sued AQHA—leading to the trial court’s decision in 2013—claiming that the ban created a monopoly and that the association already allowed members to list horses produced by other non-natural forms of breeding, such as artificial insemination.
AQHA, which touts itself as the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization, responded by saying its rules require horses to have a mother and father, which is impossible with cloning.
“We always knew our case was sound,” AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway, said of the latest ruling in a statement. “Obviously, this decision lifts a huge burden from the shoulders of our association, and we are relieved to finally have a judgment in our favor.”
The plaintiffs are planning an appeal, their attorney, Nancy J. Stone, told the Associated Press.
“We are extremely disappointed and will seek to have the trial court’s judgment reinstated,” Stone said. “Appellate courts are to give great deference to the verdict of a properly instructed jury, and we believe the jury’s verdict and the trial court’s judgment were proper.”