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The HSUS Praises Introduction of Bill to Improve Horse Welfare During Transport in U.S.

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States commends Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for introducing S. 1281, the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011, an important measure to improve safety for horses during transport. The legislation would prohibit the interstate transportation of horses in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another. This bill is backed by organizations in the veterinary medical community, the agriculture industry and animal welfare groups, and is supported by a recommendation in a new Government Accountability Office report released last week which stated that a ban on the use of double-decker trailers for transport to slaughter would “protect horses through more of the transportation chain to slaughter.”

“We have long known that transporting horses in double-decker trailers is inhumane and extremely dangerous for the animals and a hazard on the highways,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “It’s time to put a stop to this dangerous transport of horses, and we commend Senators Kirk and Lautenberg for taking the lead to end this suffering.”

Double-decker trailers are designed for short-necked animals such as cattle and pigs — not horses, who require more headroom than double-decker trailers allow. Horses often throw their heads to maintain balance and can badly injure themselves in such vehicles. Double-decker trailers carrying horses primarily transport them for slaughter, with the intention of moving as many horses as possible, without regard for safety.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated: “We do not believe that equines can be safely and humanely transported on a conveyance that has an animal cargo space divided into two or more stacked levels” (9 CFR Parts 70 and 88).

“It is time that we put an end to the inhumane practice of using double-decker trailers to transport horses,” Sen. Kirk said. “Stacking these animals one atop the other in a moving vehicle is simply an accident waiting to happen. It is not only a cruel way to transport horses, but it also puts human lives at risk.”

In recent years, there have been a number of horrific accidents in which top-heavy, double-decker trailers carrying horses have flipped over en route to slaughter plants and feed lots. In 2006, a double-decker truck hauling 41 horses in Missouri crashed, killing 16 horses. In 2007, a trailer carrying more than 50 young Belgian draft horses overturned on an Illinois highway, killing 17 of the horses and severely injuring dozens more. Clearly this method of transportation is unsafe for horses and drivers, as well as others on the road.

“Transporting horses on our roadways must be done in a way that is both safe for the animals and safe for drivers on the road,” Lautenberg said. “Double-decker trailers cram horses into tight spaces and create dangerous, top-heavy loads that can lead to horrific accidents.” 

This legislation was first introduced in 2009 and garnered the broad bipartisan support of 81 House cosponsors. While H.R. 305 successfully passed out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, it never became law.

This measure is consistent with the American Veterinary Medical Association policy on the Humane Transport of Equines; the AVMA supported H.R. 305 and similar legislation in the past.


  • Data within the scientific literature indicate increased rates of injury associated with the use of double-decker conveyances for transporting horses, according to the AVMA.
  • According to the National Agriculture Safety Database, a recommended height of 7 to 8 feet is necessary for the safe transport of horses (i.e., adequate headroom for the horses to stand comfortably with their heads in normal position).
  • Because current interstate highway regulations require a minimum vertical clearance under overhead structures of 14 feet in urban areas, it is not possible to build a double decker trailer that’s both tall enough for horse safety and low enough to clear under overpasses.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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