LUBBOCK, Texas - Two Texas quarter horse breeders want a federal jury to rule that their cloned animals should be registered by the American Quarter Horse Association, something the organization has banned since 2004.
Panhandle rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the 280,000-member organization last year in an attempt to overturn the prohibition of cloned horses from the registry.
AQHA spokesman Tom Persechino said the antitrust lawsuit, to be heard in Amarillo beginning this week, will be closely monitored by horse breeders and registries worldwide because no registry currently allows clones. Registering a horse adds value to the animal and it could then participate in breed competitions, Persechino said, and any offspring are automatically registered, he said.
"It is a big deal," he said. "I think other associations will be watching this just because of the precedent it would set."
Abraham and Veneklasen - both members of the AQHA - own an undisclosed number of cloned quarter horses or offspring, and claim the organization's rule violates federal antitrust laws that prohibit any entity from monopolizing commerce without a legitimate reason.
AQHA has denied the suit's claims, saying its rules promote competition. The organization argues private organizations with voluntary memberships should be allowed to operate without court interference. Persechino also said Sunday the membership has indicated it doesn't want the organization to register clones.
One of the men's attorneys, Nancy J. Stone, declined to comment Sunday.
Opening statements are set for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson, and the jury trial is expected to last two weeks.