USDA Proposes Rules To Regulate Transport Of Horses To Processing Facilities

The American Horse Council reports that on May 19, 1999 the United States Department of Agriculture proposed rules to regulate the commercial transportation of equines to processing facilities.

These regulations are based on legislation introduced by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and William Goodling (R-PA) that was included in the 1996 Farm Bill. In 1997, Congress appropriated $400,000 to allow USDA to draft the proposed rules.

The proposed rules only apply to the commercial transport of horses from the point of loading to the arrival at the processing facility. The rules would not apply to the occasional transport of horses to a processing facility, the transport of horses for any other reason, or to the transport of any other kind of livestock.

Under the proposed regulations, a truck must allow each horse to stand at normal height and allow for the separation of stallions and other aggressive horses. In addition to listing specifications and equipment that the trucks must feature, the proposed regulations also call for a five-year phase out of all double-decker trucks.

The proposed rule also requires that horses be provided potable water, food and the opportunity to rest at least 6 hours before being loaded for transport. Horses could not be shipped for longer than 28 hours without being unloaded for another six hours to rest, eat and drink. Horses must be checked every six hours to ensure their safety while being transported. The proposed rules would also ban the use of electric prods in commercial transporting horses.

The owner/shipper of horses transported would be required to sign an "owner-shipper certificate" for each horse and maintain a copy of the certificate for one year. The certificate must include the following information: name and address of the shipper and owner; description of the vehicle; description of each equine being transported including sex, color, distinguishing marks and permanent brands; statement of fitness to travel, which would indicate that the horse was able to bear weight on all four limbs, walk unassisted, not blind in both eyes, older than 6 months of age and not likely to give birth during the trip; description of anything unusual with regard to physical condition of the equine, such as a wound or scar; the date, time and place that the equine was loaded; a statement that the equine was provided access to food, water and rest prior to being loaded; and the USDA backtag applied to the horse.

Upon arrival at the processing facility, the proposed regulations would require the shipper to ensure that each horse has access to food and water. USDA representatives would be given copies of the owner-shipper certificates and inspect horses and cargo area of the vehicle for possible violations.

The proposed regulations authorize a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation. Each equine transported in violation of the regulations would be considered a separate violation.

The American Horse Council, the national legislative representative for the horse industry, works daily with Congress, federal agencies and the industry itself to create an environment that benefits horses and the people who depend on, care about and enjoy them. A non-profit organization, the AHC's activities are funded entirely through membership dues. They proudly represent all breeds, disciplines and activities as well as owners, breeders, veterinarians, farriers, competitors, trainers, jockeys, breed registries, horsemen's associations, race tracks, horse shows and rodeos, commercial suppliers and state horse councils.

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