Breed Groups Support AQHA on Cloning Issue

Seven breed associations and two non-equine associations have joined in a legal brief supporting the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in its bid to overturn a court decision regarding cloned horse registrations. Still, one scientist believes that the time register cloned animals has come.

Some owners have used the cloning process to preserve their animals' bloodlines, particularly those of high-performance equines. In response to cloning as a way to preserve bloodlines, some breed associations ruled on whether or not cloned horses can be included in their breed registries. In 2004 the AQHA board of directors approved Rule 227(a), which prohibits cloned horses or their offspring from being included in the organization's breed registry.

Last year Jason Abraham and two of his related companies, Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture and Abraham Equine Inc., filed suit against the AQHA. The complaint asks the court to order the AQHA to remove Rule 227(a) on grounds that the ban on registering cloned horses and their offspring violates antitrust laws.

In July 2013, a jury found that the rule preventing cloned Quarter Horses from being registered with the AQHA violated state and federal antitrust rules. A judge later signed an order requiring the AQHA to register cloned animals. On Dec. 26, 2013, the AQHA filed an appellate brief asking a court of appeals to overturn the previous court's decision. If granted, the appeal would allow the AQHA to prevent cloned horses from becoming registered.

In early January, the American Morgan Horse Association; the American Paint Horse Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club; the Arabian Horse Association (AHA); The Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred registry; the Pinto Horse Association of America; and the U.S. Trotting Association, the Standardbred registry, filed an amici curiae (or a "friends of the court" brief). The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Cat Fanciers' Association Inc. also joined in the amici brief.

Abraham's attorney Nancy Stone was unavailable for comment on the brief.

In a written statement, the AQHA said the issues addressed in the litigation are pertinent to any group that registers animals of any breed.

“The AQHA appreciates the support of these organizations and believes that the issues presented in the case are important to us all, especially when it comes to the right of our members, committees, and boards to determine rules that govern our associations,” the statement said.

Lisa Peterson, director of communications for the AKC—a dog breed registry that does not register clones—said a number of horse registries asked the AKC to join in the amici brief, and the dog breed registry agreed because the case addresses more than just cloning issues.

“The two primary issues that were briefed are that the district court erred in adopting a judgment finding that the AQHA is capable of conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act, (and) that private, voluntary associations such as the AQHA—and AKC—possess a judicially-recognized right to adopt, administer, and interpret their own rules without judicial inference," Peterson said.

Glenn Petty, the AHA's executive vice president, said his group joined the amici brief because the case represents a precedent for all associations that register animals.

“We are a breed association with a membership, we are nonprofit, and we certify pedigrees,” Petty said. “If one of our groups is having issues, we are all having issues.”

Meanwhile, Ken White, PhD, dean of the Utah State University College of Agriculture & Applied Sciences and director of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, disagrees. In 2003, White, along with Dirk Vanderwall, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, successfully cloned three racing mules. White believes clones should be included in all associations that register animals.

White said cloned horses—if they are developed to term and if they survive 72 hours after birth—do as well as animals produced by conventional means. In addition, he said, cloned animals reproduce normally and their offspring are healthy, normal, and indistinguishable from offspring of non-clones. As a result, denying clones entry to breed registries seems “very arbitrary and capricious,” said White.

“We are long past the days of concern regarding the health and well being of these animals,” White said. “The continued disallowance of registry of cloned animals has no scientific basis and at this point seems to have more to do with 'control' than the assurance of maintaining quality animals within the breed.”

Stone is expected to file her response to the AQHA appeal by Jan. 28. The AQHA has 14 days to file its reply. As a result, the case remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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