Washington, D.C. -- Late Monday night, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011 (S. 1281) to ban double deck trailer transportation of horses in the United States. Senator Kirk has worked to end the use of double deck transports for hauling horses since serving in the House of Representatives, following a horrific double deck trailer accident that took place in his state.
"The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is elated that Senator Kirk has chosen to reassert his strong commitment to the issue since his election to the Senate last year," said Christine Sequenzia, federal policy advisor at AWI. "Humane horse transportation is one of our top priorities and we felt that committee passage of a standalone bill during the 111th Congress was an important step forward. We now look forward to seeing the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011 signed into law."
Double deck livestock trailers on the road today were built to meet the specific design and engineering requirements of short-necked livestock species, like cattle, sheep, and swine. Unfortunately, a few irresponsible haulers have used these trailers against manufacturer intent to transport horses, leading to inhumane travel conditions for equines and unsafe roadways for drivers. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD) 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". The U.S. Department of Transportation only requires bridges to have a vertical clearance of 14' in both rural and urban areas, making it impractical to build or modify a trailer large enough to transport equines on two levels.
"Besides being an inhumane way to transport horses, double-deck trailers pose a major safety threat to the drivers of the imbalanced, oversized vehicles, as well as to other motorists," said Senator Kirk. "Unfortunately, crashes due to these factors have occurred, and the results of the accidents are devastating. Following an accident in 2007 in Wadsworth, Ill., authorities worked for five hours before they were able to free the horses from the wreckage."
Today, most professional horse haulers believe double deck trailer transportation of horses has been banned. While there are a few state laws prohibiting the use of double deck trailers, there are no federal guidelines regarding the humane transport of horses, other than those going to slaughter. Even those are flawed; current USDA regulations banning double deck transportation only cover horses heading directly to a slaughterhouse. Horses bound anywhere else, or en route to a midpoint in their journey (such as an auction house or feedlot) legally may be hauled in a double deck trailer - notwithstanding the cruelty. The USDA has expressed a desire to strengthen regulations banning this inhumane practice, but has yet to take action on the matter.
The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011 (S.1281) is necessary to protect horses from being transported across the United States in a trailer having more than one level. To learn more about this issue or to write a letter to your Senator in support of S. 1281, please visit http://www.compassionindex.org/.
Christine Sequenzia, AWI, (202) 337-2332