Cloning, Anti-trust and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)
By Mary Ann Hall
The AQHA is a breed-specific registry, located in Amarillo, Texas, which maintains the stud book and registration of all Quarter Horses bred in the U.S. and the world. It has 281,000 members throughout the world. It sanctions all Quarter Horse related conformation and performance events. Like many breed-specific clubs, it is comprised of a Board of Directors and various Committees. The Stud Book Registration Committee (SBRC) makes recommendations to the Board regarding issues such as breeding and registration.
As part of its duties, the SBRC reviewed a 2004 request to register cloned Quarter Horses. Cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer is a type of artificial insemination. The AQHA had previously allowed the registration of Quarter Horses produced by artificial reproductive technology, including intracystoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), but declined to allow cloned Quarter Horses.
In April 2012, the AQHA was sued by owners of clones or the offspring of cloned Quarter Horses and whom were denied the ability to register their horses. The case was recently tried before a jury.
The Plaintiff’s causes of action were a violation of certain provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act and the Texas Business and Commercial Code. They argued the refusal to register clones was an abuse of the AQHA’s market monopoly for high quality registered Quarter Horses; it had an adverse effect on competition; there was no reasonable business justification; and it damaged the Plaintiff’s.
In the judge’s Order denying the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court found, “SBRC members capture individual economic benefits separate and apart from that of the AQHA as a result of decisions they make for the AQHA.” That is, the SBRC members were breeders and competitors of the Plaintiff’s and they had an incentive to decrease the competition by excluding cloned Quarter Horses. Here, the Board failed in its duties to review or question the recommendations of the SBRC.
The jury found the AQHA violated state and federal anti-trust laws by conspiracy to bar cloned Quarter Horses from its registry. It did not award any damages. The AQHA is appealing the decision.
Further reading and court documents can be found here.