In October 2007, a double-deck tractor trailer carrying 59 Belgian draft horses through Wadsworth, Illinois, was involved in an accident. The crash was so severe that it took more than five hours before authorities could free the suffering horses from the mangled truck. Sadly, nine horses died on the scene, with another six dying later because of injuries sustained during the crash.
Accidents such as this are not uncommon. Only one year earlier, a double-deck truck hauling 41 horses to slaughter at the Cavel International slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Illinois, crashed (pictured). This tragic incident resulted in the death of 16 horses. Similar incidents have occurred elsewhere in the United States.
Not only is it unsafe to haul horses in double-deck trailers, but it is inhumane, a point on which animal protection organizations, veterinary associations, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agree. According to the USDA:
"Double-deck trailers do not provide adequate headroom for equines, with the possible exception of foals and yearlings. We do not believe that trailers that have two or more permanent levels that are not collapsible can be adequately altered to accommodate adult equines, especially tall equines. A tall equine can be 8 feet tall to the top of its head when standing on all four legs and close to 12 feet tall when rearing.
We acknowledge that double-deck trailers can carry more equines and other livestock than single-deck trailers... We do not believe that equines can be safely and humanely transported on a conveyance that has an animal cargo space divided into two or more stacked levels." (9 CFR Parts 70 and 88).
In fact, federal regulations governing the transport of horses to slaughter are so deficient that they allow the movement of blind horses, horses with broken legs and heavily pregnant mares.
- Double-deck trailers are designed for livestock such as cattle and hogs, not horses.
- The USDA opposes the transport of horses on double-deck trailers and recently issued regulations prohibiting their use entirely under the agency’s policy governing the transport of equines to slaughter.1
- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)2 and the National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD)3 have recommended ceiling heights no lower than 7'–8' to transport horses safely, while average double deck trailer ceiling heights range from 4'7"–5'11". It is also important to note that the U.S. Department of Transportation4 requires just a 14' minimum vertical clearance beneath overpasses. This establishes an upper height limit for vehicles on highways, making it impossible to create a two level trailer with sufficient headroom for the horses.
1. USDA Slaughter Horse Transport Program: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/09/07/2011-22762/commercia...
2. AVMA: http://www.avma.org/issues/policy/animal_welfare/equine_transport.asp
3. NASD: http://nasdonline.org/document/1047/d000842/horse-trailer-maintenance-an...
4. DOT FHA: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/geometric/pubs/mitigationstrategies/chapter3/...