Judge Denies the AQHA Again

An Amarillo federal judge on Friday denied another bid by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to overturn a court order requiring it to register cloned quarter horses and their offspring.

The association filed legal briefs Friday claiming that the plaintiffs did not offer a legally sufficient basis to support their trial claims that the AQHA violated federal and state antitrust law by barring clones. But U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson again ruled against the association.

In a prior ruling Thursday, the judge said the AQHA cannot enforce Rule 227a. The decision also spelled out a series of rule changes the AQHA will have to make to allow for registration of clones or their offspring produced through a cloning technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Rancher Jason Abraham of Canadian and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the 280,000-member organization last year, seeking to overturn Rule 227a, which bars cloned horses from the association’s registry. Last month, an Amarillo federal court jury found the AQHA and one of its committees violated two sections of the Sherman Antitrust Act and a Texas law by barring clones from its registry. Jurors also found AQHA’s actions harmed the plaintiffs, but awarded no damages.

Robinson’s ruling said the rule must be amended to provide for parentage verification of foals and that cloned foals shall receive a registration number if DNA testing confirms the horse’s DNA matches the DNA of an already-numbered American quarter horse.

The AQHA also cannot discriminate against or exclude clones from any “AQHA sponsored, sanctioned, jointly conducted or affiliated show, competition and/or other equine-related event,” according to the judge’s decision.

The judge’s findings of fact and conclusions of law said AQHA possessed monopoly power in the market for elite quarter horses and that the association’s “illegal conduct” was a material cause of the plaintiffs’ injuries.

Tom Persechino, a top AQHA official, said the association will appeal Friday’s ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nancy Stone, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said she believes her clients will prevail in the case.

“By denying AQHA’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, Judge Robinson has once again acted swiftly in the interest of remedying the ongoing violations of the antitrust laws and halting the ongoing harm to the plaintiffs and the market for elite Quarter Horses,” she said. “ We are extremely grateful to the jury for empowering the court to order AQHA to register cloned quarter horses and their offspring.  We believe that the court properly instructed the jury, that the law has been properly applied and that the judgment will be affirmed on appeal.”

By Jim McBride • Amarillo Globe-News