Double-Decker Trailering: Casting Stones...

Accidents are terrible things. A horse buyer (not a slaughter buyer) acquired 50 horses from sales in Minnesota to take to his farm in Kentucky. He's known to other horse owners in his community to buy these types of horses and re-sell them to riding camps and trail riding programs. He hired a double-decker livestock truck to haul them home, and he was riding in the cab of the truck when the truck overturned, tumbled down an embankment, and crashed into a utility pole. At least 21 horses ended up dead at the scene, and others were injured. Contrary to what you might think at first blush, the horses don't appear to have been bought for slaughter, we don't know if the rig was overweight (the driver said he'd gone through a weigh station in Indiana and was okay, but didn't have a log book to prove it), and you can haul private horses any way you like. (Even slaughter horses can be hauled in double-decker trucks until 2007). While we haven't talked to the horse owner, we heard from secondary sources who have, and they say he is devastated. On top of that, irate people have been stopping by his farm to abuse him because they think he did something illegal or immoral. He didn't do anything illegal as far as we can tell, and morality is certainly personal enough not to inflict it on others without knowing the whole truth of a matter.

How many times have we said, "Wouldn't it be great if someone would buy the likely horses out of sales and find them new homes instead of them going to the killers?" Doesn't that sound like what this fellow was doing? Was he making a profit? I certainly hope so. If not, he would go out of business and the few horses he could save and re-sell would be lost to the camps and farms.

I don't know whether this fellow has a good heart, is totally calloused and concerned only with money, or if he is doing this because his daughter's dying wish was to save as many horses as she could, and he's carrying on for her.

Does it matter?

Unless we are willing to give up our rights as owners to haul horses as we see fit, then anyone has the right to haul private horses (non-slaughter-bound horses) any way he or she wants.

Would you be appalled to see horses jumping in and out of the backs of pick-up trucks, fully tacked and ready to ride? It happens all the time with working horses and good horse owners out west.

There are stories of horses falling through the worn or rotted wooden floors of tag-along trailers and being dragged to their deaths. And there are stories of horses flipping over in trailers unbeknownst to the driver, going down the road with four legs up.

Horses have climbed into hay racks, jumped out the backs of moving trailers, and stuck their heads out unsecured side windows (with unsusbstantiated reports of being decapitated).

Hindsight is 20-20. Maybe if the Kentucky fellow, or any of these other people involved in trailer accident situations, had known what was going to happen, things would have been done differently. But, my friends, we don't even know if we'll make it home this evening, so how can we foresee all the possible bad things that can happen?

If you are opposed to equine slaughter or slaughter horses hauled in double-decker trucks, then support the current federal legislation that bans slaughter of horses in the United States. That bill is languishing in Congress.

Some states--because of pressure from constituents--have passed laws that won't permit slaughter horses to be hauled in double-decker trucks through their states. That's a fine idea, but I don't think any of the state laws would have covered this incident because these are private horses not bound for slaughter.

Thanks Go Out To...

Kudos to John Nenni, DVM, of Bright Veterinary Clinic in Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Sherri Grote, a licensed veterinary technician, who tended the injured animals at the accident scene. Many equine veterinarians were out of town at a conference, and Nenni alone dealt with the aftermath of this horrible accident.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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