Horse Transport Bill Advances

Legislation that would ban the use of double-decker trailers to transport horses advanced this week when it was passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure July 29.

The Horse Transportation Act of 2009 (HR305) would prohibit the interstate transport of horses in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another. U.S. Representative Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the legislation into the House in January 2009. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) co-sponsored the bill. Kirk represents Lake County, Ill., the site of an October 2007 double-decker trailer rollover accident that killed several Draft horses in transit through Illinois from Indiana.

That accident occurred when a truck hauling the horses in a double-decker trailer from Indiana through Wadsworth, Ill., to Minnesota overturned. A total of 17 animals perished due to accident-related injuries, either on the scene or within days of the incident. The surviving horses were placed in the care of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (HARPS), and later placed in adoptive homes.

The horses' original owner, Keith O. Tongen, was charged with five counts of animal cruelty, but he pleaded guilty to one count of reckless conduct under a plea agreement. Lake County Circuit Court Judge Philip Lawler later sentenced Tongen to two years supervision and $1,000 in fines. He also ordered Tongen to pay $1,500 restitution to the Newport Township Fire Protection District for accident response costs, and $1,500 to HARPS for the care of the surviving horses.

HR 305 carries civil penalties of at least $100, but no more than $500, for each violation. A separate violation occurs for each illegally transported horse.

The bill will move on for full House consideration when Congress reconvenes in September.

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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