An Oregon jury has awarded two dog breeders $400,000 because a semen bank for dogs mistakenly destroyed frozen specimens from highly-esteemed Labrador Retrievers, court documents show.
The verdict reached this month sides with Richard Weiner and Brad Barcroft, who sued the International Canine Semen Bank for allegedly losing some vials of the semen and damaging the quality of those remaining.
Weiner paid the bank to collect, store and maintain semen from specialty hunting and field trial dogs since 1995, according to the complaint. He sold some of the vials to Barcroft in 2012, whom the bank also promised that the material would be preserved for future breeding. But independent tests on the semen in 2013 revealed their value degraded.
The bank neglected to tell the breeders, the complaint said, and they found out three years later that bank employees improperly mixed and diluted the goods. The genetic material was thus less effective for artificial insemination procedures to impregnate female dogs.
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As a result, a jury at the Clackamas County Circuit Court awarded Weiner $300,000 and Barcroft $100,000. They determined the bank based in the city of Sandy breached its agreement with its clients and negligently harmed their property.
The breeders originally sued for $800,000, according to the complaint for damages.
An attorney for the International Canine Semen Bank said his clients are requesting a new trial because of of irregularities in evidence and potential witness tampering.
“We fully expect to prevail in a fair trial, and if our request for a new trial is denied, then we will appeal, and we fully expect to prevail on appeal,” attorney Nicholas Herman said
The bank is in the business of collecting semen from male dogs, storing it in labeled vials and maintaining its motility (overall effectiveness) inside industrial freezers.
Years later, the bank can thaw the genetic material and use artificial insemination to impregnate a female dog. The practice can extend the bloodline of prized male dogs long after they die. In one case, the bank produced a litter of puppies from frozen semen that had been stored for 38 years, according to its website.
Barcroft estimates the lost vials he owned would have produced 104 puppies selling for $2,500 each. To revitalize the gene pool at Driftcreek Labradors, he said he needs to find another dog with a high-quality background.
Attorney Geordie Duckler, who represented Weiner and Duckler, said the payout is on the higher end of such cases.
“It’s not that remarkable that disputes involving specialty animal breeders can occasionally result in fairly significant awards/settlements given the high dollar value that certain dogs and horses (and even cats) can command in certain marketplaces,” Duckler said in an email. “This verdict nevertheless is on the larger end of that spectrum.”
Weiner, whose business Sunnyview Labradors is based in Salem, declined to comment. He told The Oregonian the loss of prized Labrador bloodlines was emotionally devastating and especially mourned the loss of genetic material from a dog named King. The Labrador was the son of San Joaquin Honcho, the 1976 U.S. National Field Champion, The Oregonian reported.