Federal Ban on Equine Transport via Double-Decker Introduced

The use of double-decker trailers to transport horses for any purpose would be banned nationwide if a new bill recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law. But some equine welfare advocates say the bill is flawed.

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), H.R. 6278, the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2008, would amend Chapter 805 of title 49, United States Code, to prohibit horse transport in double-decker trailers in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories..

Under the proposed law, violators would be subject to federal civil prosecution by the U.S. Attorney General, and fines of $100 to $500 per horse.

However, some say the bill is too lenient.

"This kind of transport is cruelty, so the charges should be criminal," said Donna Ewing, president of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society in Barrington, Ill. "And the fines are too low; they should be so stiff that people wouldn't even think about violating the law."

The bill also raises enforcement questions, according to Christine Berry, longtime humane transport activist and founding president of the Pennsylvania-based Equine Protection Network.

Where so-called "doubles" are currently banned, state and local authorities have jurisdiction to cite and prosecute violators, she said. Under the proposed measure, the violation enforcement would fall to the U.S. Attorney General's office.

"So who makes the Attorney General aware of a violation?" asked Berry. "Under this proposal, private citizens can't call 911 and get law enforcement. The law would be unenforceable."

Neither Rep. Kirk nor his spokesman Eric Elk were available for comment.

Although the Commercial Transportation of Horses to Slaughter Act of 1996 prohibits the use of double-decker trailers to transport horses headed to slaughter facilities, six states currently prohibit double-decker horse transport for any purpose, according to Humane Society of the United States statistics.

Ewing, whose organization served as caretaker for 42 draft horses involved in a double-decker rollover accident in Illinois last October, said she supports the national ban effort, despite her reservations about the current bill.

"Creating a federal law is good," she said. "But without stiffer penalties, I'm afraid people will either pay the fines or find ways to get around it."

H.R. 6278 has been referred to House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for review.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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