AQHA Cloning Lawsuit

View the timeline of events plus additional resources related to the subject of cloning and the Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture v. American Quarter Horse Association lawsuit.

Lawsuit Timeline

  • FEBRUARY 26, 2015: The Plaitiffs filed a petition for all active judges of the Fifth Circuit to rehear the case that was decided originally by the three-judge panel of Judges Jolly, Jones and Africk. Read the news release.
  • JANUARY 14, 2015: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rules in favor of AQHA. Read the news release.
  • JUNE 20, 2014: Preliminary indication from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is that oral arguments will be the week of September 1. Read the news release.
  • MARCH 24, 2014: AQHA filed its Reply Brief to Plaintiffs’ Brief in the cloning lawsuit with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the news release.
  • MARCH 3, 2014: On February 27, 2014, Appellees (Plaintiffs) filed their response brief. AQHA's current deadline to reply is March 24. Read the news release.
  • JANUARY 10, 2014: On January 2, 2014, several groups filed an Amici Curiae Brief asking the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s judgment and render a verdict in favor of AQHA. Read the news release, including the list of breed organizations supporting AQHA's effort to have the final judgement reversed.
  • JANUARY 3, 2014: On December 26, 2013, AQHA filed its appellate brief in the cloning lawsuit. Read the news release.
  • DECEMBER 3, 2013: The U.S. District Court in Amarillo granted in part AQHA's Motion for Stay of Equitable Relief Pending Appeal. The effect of the order is that pending resolution of AQHA’s appeal, AQHA is not required to register clones or their offspring. Read the news release.
  • SEPTEMBER 23, 2013: AQHA filed its Notice of Appeal, which will begin the appellate process as the case heads to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
  • AUGUST 22, 2013: The judge in the cloning lawsuit issued a final judgment ordering AQHA to immediately begin registering clones and their offspring. Read the news release.
  • AUGUST 12, 2013: Parties appear before the Court to argue the plantiffs' claims for attorney fees and for equitable relief in the form of an injunction requiring AQHA to register clones and their offspring. Read the news release.
  • AUGUST 1, 2013: AQHA announces its intentions to appeal the verdict. Read the news release.
  • JULY 30, 2013: The Federal Jury ruled against the American Quarter Horse Association in the cloning lawsuit. Read the news release.
  • JULY 15, 2013: Parties will appear before the court on Tuesday, July 16 for a pretrial conference. Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17.
  • JULY 8, 2013: Parties attended the docket call this morning in federal court and announced they are ready for trial. The Court has set July 16 as the trial date. It is anticipated the trial will take two to three weeks.

Lawsuit Background

In April 2012, Jason Abraham and two of his related companies, Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture and Abraham Equine Inc., filed a lawsuit against the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Amarillo, seeking to force AQHA to repeal Rule 227(a) (now Rule REG106.1) to allow cloned horses and their offspring to be eligible for registration with AQHA. These plaintiffs also sought money damages from AQHA.

Since the lawsuit was filed in April 2012, the parties exchanged thousands of pages of documents during the discovery process. More than 20 depositions were taken, including those of the plaintiffs and their experts, as well as depositions of AQHA executive committee members, stud book and registration committee members, AQHA staff and AQHA experts.

At trial, AQHA and its legal team defended the right of the AQHA board of directors, acting on behalf of the membership, to decide whether horses produced by cloning ought to be eligible for registration.

Cloning Timeline

2004

Under Rule REG106.1 of the AQHA Official Handbook (previously Rule 227(a)), American Quarter Horses produced by any cloning process are not eligible for registration. Although Rule 227(a) was first instituted in 2004, clones have never been eligible for registration with AQHA since AQHA registration rules have always required that only horses resulting from the breeding of a sire and dam are eligible for registration.

2008

Since 2008, AQHA representatives and members have been studying the science and practicality of cloning and its potential impact on the breed. The SBRC and a cloning task force examined numerous issues involved with cloning and, in doing so, consulted with a wide variety of experts in the field of cloning.

At AQHA's 2008 convention, the SBRC was, for the first time, presented with a proposed change to Rule 227(a) that would allow a live foal produced via "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (a particular type of cloning) to be registered if its DNA matches that of a registered American Quarter Horse.

At that time, the SBRC recommended that any decision regarding the proposed change be postponed pending further study to be undertaken at the direction of the SBRC. The AQHA members attending the convention membership business meeting agreed with the SBRC's recommendation, and the recommendation was adopted by AQHA's board of directors.

2009

At the 2009 convention, AQHA sponsored a cloning forum that was attended by more than 400 AQHA members. This forum was also webcast live on AQHA.com. The forum included formal presentations from several experts, one of which is now serving as an expert for the plaintiffs in the antitrust suit against AQHA. Following these presentations, AQHA members were given the opportunity to offer their own comments and ask questions of the expert panelists.

After the forum took place at the 2009 convention, the SBRC again recommended that the subject of cloning be studied further by establishing a cloning task force with the directive to continue to seek information and input from informed sources regarding the science and implications of cloning. Once again, the members at the convention voted in favor of the SBRC's recommendation, and such recommendation was adopted by AQHA's board of directors.

2010

The information gathered by the task force during the year was then presented to the SBRC at the 2010 convention.  Such task force information included the results of an AQHA member survey conducted by AQHA during the year. This survey, which went out to 3,000 random members, had a great response rate of more than 30 percent, of which 86.02 percent of the respondents were against cloning (The survey had an error margin of plus or minus 2.99 percent). Following the receipt of the task force findings and the member survey, the SBRC recommended that the 2008 rule change proposal be denied. By their vote, the members attending the annual convention agreed with the SBRC's recommendation, and such recommendation was adopted by AQHA's board of directors.

2011

At the 2011 convention, the SBRC again addressed the topic of cloning when it considered a proposed rule change that would allow for the registration of a cloned horse for breeding purposes only. The SBRC recommended that the proposed rule change be denied. Such recommendation was accepted by the members attending the convention, and the recommendation was adopted by AQHA's board of directors.

2012

Prior to the 2012 convention, another rule change proposal concerning cloning was submitted. This proposal would have amended Rule 227(a) to allow for the registration of the offspring of a cloned horse. After hearing from members at the SBRC meeting, the committee chose not to recommend passage of the proposal. The SBRC's recommendation was accepted by the members attending the convention, and the AQHA board of directors adopted the recommendation not to change the rule.

It was shortly after the 2012 convention that a group of plaintiffs (Jason Abraham, Abraham and Veneklasen Joint Venture, and Abraham Equine, Inc.) filed their antitrust lawsuit against AQHA seeking money damages and requesting that the court force AQHA to rescind Rule 227(a) and allow for the registration of clones and their offspring.

2013

Prior to the 2013 convention, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Jason Abraham, submitted another proposed change to Rule 227(a). After hearing from members and engaging in discussion, the SBRC unanimously recommended that the proposal be denied. Upon presentation to the members at the convention, the members were unanimous in agreement with the recommendation of the SBRC. Finally, upon presentation to the board of directors, the board unanimously agreed with the SBRC's recommendation and denied the rule change proposal.

On July 30, 2013, the Federal Jury ruled against the American Quarter Horse Association in the cloning lawsuit. Two months later, AQHA filed its Notice of Appeal, and in December, the U.S. District Court in Amarillo granted in part AQHA's Motion for Stay of Equitable Relief Pending Appeal, resulting in AQHA not being required to register clones or their offspring.

2014

A number of breed organizations rallied in favor of AQHA's effort to have the final judgement reversed and filed an Amici Curiae Brief asking the Fifth Circuit to render a verdict in favor of AQHA.

In February, the Plaintiffs filed their response brief, and AQHA filed its Reply Brief in March.

2015

On January 14, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rules in favor of AQHA, reversing the District Court's judgement and rendering judgement for AQHA on the grounds that the Plaintiffs' claims against AQHA fail both because the Plaintiffs' evidence did not prove a conspiracy to restrain trade and because "AQHA is not a competitor in the allegedly relevant market for elite Quarter Horses."

Cloning Position

Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture v. American Quarter Horse Association: Fifth Circuit Judgement (January 14, 2015):

  1. It is AQHA's position that when people with shared interests, goals and values come together to form a voluntary private association to serve a common purpose, the members have a right to determine the rules for their association.

    • Setting rules around registering American Quarter Horses and defining the American Quarter Horse breed is key to what AQHA does.

    • AQHA registration rules have always required that only horses resulting from the breeding of a mother and a father (the joining of an egg and a sperm) are eligible for registration.

    • Cloning involves taking tissue cells from a horse -- even from a dead horse -- and injecting it into an egg to make a copy of that horse. Clones don't have parents. Cloning is not breeding.

    • Like a number of other breed registries, including the Jockey Club and the American Kennel Club, AQHA does not register clones.

    • In 2004, the AQHA membership passed Rule 227(a) to further stipulate that clones are not eligible for registration.

    • A survey of the AQHA membership showed that an overwhelming 86% of the members do not believe clones should be registered with AQHA.

    • Since the first cloning proposal in 2008, not a single AQHA member attending the convention membership business meeting has spoken or voted at such meeting in favor of registering clones or their offspring. Likewise, since 2008, not a single member of the Board of Directors attending the final Board meeting has spoken or voted at such meeting in favor of registering clones or their offspring.

    • This lawsuit is an attempt by two members of AQHA to force AQHA to register clones against the wishes of the membership.

  2. Since its inception in 1940, American Quarter Horse breeders have been in the honorable business of working to make each generation of horses better than the generation before.

    • There is a fundamental, shared belief among AQHA members that the art and science of breeding is the way to improve the breed.

    • Cloning doesn't improve the breed; it just makes Xerox copies of the same horses.

    • With clones we're not moving forward, we're staying the same.

  3. A key purpose of a breed registry is to be able to prove who the parents of a particular horse are. AQHA maintains records regarding the family trees or lineages of horses.

    • AQHA uses DNA testing to verify who a horse's mother and father are.

    • Prior to the registration of any foal, a genetic type must be on file for mothers born after January 1, 1989 and for fathers exposed to more than one mare after January 1, 1998.

    • Parentage verification has been part of AQHA rules as far back as the 1960's. Currently, a horse must be parentage verified through genetic testing before it can be registered if:

      • AQHA has cause to question its parentage.

      • Either of the parents was less than 2 years of age at time of conception.

      • It was the result of the use of embryo/oocyte transfer or cooled/frozen sperm.

      • It was more than 48 months of age at time of application.

      • Its mother was exposed to more than one stallion within a 30 day period.

      • It has excessive white markings.

      • It was born on or after January 1, 2007 and is a relative of the horse Impressive

      • For racehorses, in order to be tattoo identified, all horses foaled on or after January 1, 1992 shall be parentage verified through genetic testing.

    • When people buy a registered American Quarter Horse, they expect AQHA to be able to tell them exactly who a horse's mother and father are. If such people question the parentage of a horse, or it becomes necessary to check parentage for other reasons, AQHA has the ability to do so through DNA testing.

    • If a father is cloned, DNA testing is unable to determine whether the original father or its clone is the real father of a horse.

    • This problem also exists with respect to a mother if the egg used in cloning the mother comes from the same maternal line as the mother being cloned.

  4. The consequences of cloning horses are not yet clear.

    • Given the $150,000 + cost of cloning, only very popular and elite horses will be cloned.

    • Breeders already use popular and elite horses over and over again in their breeding programs.

    • Sometimes too much of a "good" thing -- like copying a popular or elite horse over and over again for breeding purposes -- can lead to a bad thing.

    • Cloning has the potential to intensify the narrowing of the gene pool resulting in the worsening of known and unknown genetic diseases or the creation of new genetic diseases.

  5. Plaintiffs allege that there is a shortage of elite horses and cloning would alleviate this problem.

    • Statistics show that there is no shortage of elite horses for buyers and breeders to choose from.

Contact AQHA

Sarah Davisson
806-378-4368 (office)
e-mail