Trial Begins

Trial Begins, Seeking AQHA Registration for Clones

by Betsy Blaney

The quarter horse association fighting to keep clones out of its register already allows other breeding technologies and by excluding clones is operating a monopoly, an attorney for two breeders suing the organization told jurors in opening statements Wednesday.

Since 1960 the American Quarter Horse Association has accepted for registration animals born through means other than natural, including artificial insemination, frozen semen and cooled semen.

The association “let the horse out the door,” Nancy Stone, the breeders attorney, said about the group registering quarter horses born through the technologies.

Testimony began Wednesday afternoon in the 2012 lawsuit filed by two breeders, Panhandle rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen, who own cloned quarter horses or offspring and want the animals registered with the 280,000-member organization.

The case is being closely watched by other U.S. horse-breeding groups because it could set a precedent. It costs about $150,000 to clone an animal, association lawyer Wade Arnold said in his opening comments and that to register a horse the animal must come from a registered mother and a father.

“Cloning you don’t have that,” he told jurors. “That is the fundamental rule of our association and it has been since 1940.”

He told jurors that Abraham, Veneklasen others interested in cloning quarter horses could start their own organization and set their own rules like the association does.

AQHA members “ought to have the right to make their own rules, if those rules are reasonable and lawful,” he said.

AQHA has denied antitrust allegations and says its rules promote competition.

Stone disagreed, saying there us a reduced supply of elite quarter horses because of the rule that excludes clones, which means the value of those remaining is higher. The association wants to keep it that way and continue monopolizing the market, she said.

“Registration is absolutely essential for a quarter horse to be worth anything,” Stone said. The association “is holding these (cloned) horses and their offspring to a higher standard than horses born” through other technologies.

The breeders are seeking $6 million in damages, Arnold said. But the breeders stand to make plenty of money with the technology to clone quarter horses if the rule prohibiting clones is changed, he said.

“This is about money,” Arnold said. “It’s not just about the rule.”