An Amarillo court ruled against the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) this week in a lawsuit brought by horse owners wishing to register their cloned offspring. At first glance, the question of whether or not a horse breed association would be forced to register certain animals would seem to have little impact on the cattle industry, but the ruling is likely causing executives in a lot of cattle breed associations some sleepless nights.
It’s irrelevant whether AQHA should register cloned animals or not; the question is whether breed associations have the right to make and enforce rules supported by the majority of its members. AQHA promised to appeal the decision but, if upheld, it could be argued that a whole host of similar rules might not withstand a legal challenge. Restricting the registration of animals that carry certain genetic defects is one such example. It could be argued that even requiring a breeding certificate could be challenged in court.
I could come up with a page of breed association policies restricting one’s ability to market and profit from their animals that may or not be based on sound principles. However, it’s always been understood that a breed association, if it follows its own policies and rules, had the right to make such rules. This ruling essentially states that AQHA doesn’t have the right to make its own rules, even if the policy was created according to its own bylaws.
Cattle breed associations have been devastated by lawsuits in the past, but have largely been spared from a lot of litigation because it was understood that those associations had the right to make and enforce their own policies. One of the sacrosanct rights of associations has been that they could make as boneheaded and stupid policy decisions as the membership wanted. Now, it appears the courts may have decided that they have the right to intervene and correct those policies.
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