7/30/2013 3:30 PM
By By Betsy Blaney Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - The nation's pre-eminent Quarterhorse association is violating state and federal antitrust laws by banning cloned horses from its prestigious registry, a Texas jury ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched by breeding groups across the U.S. and abroad.
Attorneys for two ranchers who sued the American Quarter Horse Association said the verdict doesn't automatically require the group to register cloned horses or their offspring. That step could come at a later hearing that has yet to be scheduled, attorney Nancy Stone said.
The jury also didn't award any of the $6 million in damages being sought by the breeders.
"Our primary interest throughout this case has not been damages but to get these horses registered," Stone said.
The association is considering an appeal, spokesman Tom Persechino said.
The two breeders, Texas Panhandle rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen, sued the association last year. Their lawsuit argued that the group was operating a monopoly by excluding clones, noting that it already allowed other non-natural breeding technologies such as artificial insemination.
But the 280,000-member association denied it was violating antitrust laws. It argued that its rules require a registered mother and a registered father, which is impossible with clones, and that it had the right to set its own rules as long as they were reasonable and lawful. During the trial, one of the group's attorneys noted that a survey sent to 3,000 association members a few years ago found that 86 percent of them were opposed to registering clones.
The association is trying hard to safeguard its prestigious registry, which adds financial value to listed animals. A call to an association attorney wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.
The case is being watched by breeders in the U.S. and could set a precedent because no American breeding groups currently allow registering of clones. According to American Paint Horse Association spokesman Billy Smith, breeders worldwide also could be affected because semen could be transported to other countries, though some international laws might not allow the use of clones.
Attorneys for the two plaintiffs were seeking to force the association to register their cloned animals. They also were seeking $6 million in damages.