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Case law snapshot: Bull v Australian Quarter Horse Association

Equine Legal Services 1

In the recent case of Bull v Australian Quarter Horse Association [2015] NSWCA 354 the New South Wales Court of Appeal examined a case where a cloned horse was denied registration based on the breed association’s regulations.

The Facts

In December 2010 Mr Bull purchased a Quarter Horse from the USA which was a clone. This horse had not been registered with the American Quarter Horse Association.  In April 2011 Mr Bull imported this horse and applied to register the horse with the Australia Quarter Horse Association (“AQHA”).  His application was refused.  He brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales seeking relief from that refusal.

The AQHA had amended its regulations in December 2010 and April 2011 in order to prevent the registration of cloned horses however these changes had not been published in the hard copy regulations available to members. Mr Bull sought to rely on the previous version of the regulations, which did not prohibit the registration of clones, or alternatively he sought to argue that he was entitled to register the horse under the new regulations.  There was a significant difference between the previous and amended regulations.  The new regulations disallowed the registration of cloned horses whereas the previous regulations had allowed cloned horses, so long as the other requirements for registration were met.  One of the requirements for registration was that any imported horse had to be registered with an international Quarter Horse stud book before it could be registered with the AQHA.

The First Decision

Justice Hallen found that the horse could not be registered on the basis that the AQHA regulations required imported horses to be already registered with an international stud book in order to be registered in Australia. As the horse in question was not registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, it was not possible to register the horse under the Australian regulations.

The Appeal

Mr Bull appealed the decision of Justice Hallen on 4 grounds, with the fourth ground requiring leave as it was an argument not raised previously:

  • Whether His Honour erred in finding that the previous regulations prevented the horse’s registration
  • Whether His Honour erred in finding that the horse was not entitled to registration under the amended regulations
  • Whether His Honour ought to have found an implied term that amendments to the regulations were binding only upon notification to members
  • Whether His Honour ought to have found that AQHA was estopped from relying on the amended regulations to refuse registration

 

In relation to the first 3 grounds of appeal, the Court agreed with the original decision that the horse did not meet registration requirements. In relation to the implied term, the Court held that the implied term was contrary to the express terms in the AQHA constitution and regulations.  These both provided that amendments to regulations applied when the resolution was passed, regardless of whether any copy was available for members at that stage.  The Court refused leave in relation to the fourth ground of appeal on the basis that the estoppel issue raised factual issues requiring an examination of evidence which Mr Bull failed to adduce at trial.

The Result

The appeal was dismissed with costs.

Take Home Message

When applying to register a horse with a breed association or stud book, you should check the registration requirements for that organisation, which may be contained within the association’s constitution, rules and regulations and other such documents. You should check with that organisation that you are viewing the most up to date version, and whether any amendments are soon to take effect that may impact you.

If you would like assistance with or advice on an association’s constitution, regulations or rules please contact our Equine Legal Services Team at sayward.brest@chamberlains.com.au.

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