USDA Proposing Change to Horse Slaughter Transport Regulations

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is considering a change to its regulations concerning the humane transport of horses being shipped to slaughter.

Current special regulations pertaining to slaughter-bound horses only apply to horses being shipped directly to processing facilities. If the horses will be stopping at a sale, assembly point, or feedlot en route to the facility, the regulations do not apply. This means that haulers are legally allowed to use double-decker trailers, as long as the animals are not going directly to a slaughter facility.

The proposed rule change would extend the protections in place for equids heading to slaughter to those moving within the pipeline, including horses going to an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard.

The proposed rule was submitted Nov. 7, less than two weeks after a double-decker trailer transporting young draft horses from a sale Indiana to a sale in Minnesota flipped over in Wadsworth, Ill. Of the 59 horses onboard, 18 died due to accident-related injuries. Although the truck's driver was cited for failure to obey a traffic control device and failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident, no further charges have been filed in connection with the incident.

New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont have state laws banning the use of double-deckers to transport horses for any reason. Illinois lawmakers proposed similar legislation in that state following the Wadsworth accident.

The abstract of the proposed USDA rule reads as follows:

"We are proposing to amend the regulations regarding the commercial transportation of equines to slaughter to add a definition of equine for slaughter and make other changes that will extend the protections afforded by the regulations to equines bound for slaughter but delivered first to an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard. This action would further ensure the humane treatment of such equines by helping to ensure that the unique and special needs of equines in commercial transportation to slaughter are met."

Public comments on this rule will be accepted until Jan. 7, 2008.

To read the full text of the proposed rule and comment electronically, visit, select Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the agency menu, and click Submit. In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0168.

Comments can also be submitted via mail to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0168, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Comments on this docket can be viewed in the USDA reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building at 14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Call 202/690-2817 to be sure the room is available before coming.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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