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New USDA Transportation Regulations for Slaughter-Bound Horses Applauded

The HSUS praises the U.S. Department of Agriculture for stronger new regulations against double-decker transport of slaughter-bound horses.

The Humane Society of the United States praises the U.S. Department of Agriculture for closing a gaping loophole that previously allowed the horse slaughter industry to escape oversight and transport horses in inhumane conditions. Many horses bound for slaughter have ended up in dangerous double-decker trailers if the shippers exploited the loophole and simply made a stop between the auction block and the slaughter plant.

Double-deckers trailers are not designed to safely transport horses, and the USDA has documented horrific injuries to horses’ heads, necks, backs and legs that occur during the long trip to the slaughterhouse – adding to the misery inflicted on animals by this indefensible industry. The final rule provides that all regulations covering the humane transport of horses to slaughter be extended to include slaughter-bound horses who are delivered first to an assembly point, feedlot or stockyard. It is important for improving the humane transport of horses being shipped to slaughter facilities in Canada and Mexico.

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“Far too often we have seen the devastating, often fatal, effects of horses being forced to travel in double decker trailers,” said Keith Dane, The HSUS’ director of equine protection. “The Humane Society of the United States is pleased that the USDA has revised its rules so killer buyers can’t circumvent sanctions by saying they are only transporting horses to a holding facility, rather than directly to a foreign slaughter plant.”

Double-decker trailers are designed for short-necked animals, such as cattle and sheep. Horses carry their heads high and use their long necks for balance, and the low ceilings in double-deckers mean they are forced to lower their heads to an abnormal and uncomfortable position. In 2006 and 2007, catastrophic highway accidents involving double-decker trailers killed a total of 31 horses. In both instances, the design of the trailers caused horses horrible injuries, including traumatic amputations of parts of  legs or broken backs.

The USDA stated in the Federal Register, “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.” Recent reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Office of the Inspector General also recommend closing the loophole that allows shippers who do not transport horses directly to a slaughter facility to escape USDA oversight and use double-decker trailers.

Currently, no horses are being slaughtered in the U.S., but American horses continue to be forced to endure long trips in these dangerous trailers across the borders. While the USDA finally closing the loophole in its regulations is an important step to crack down on horse slaughter abuses, The HSUS strongly supports the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176), which will, among other things, ban the long-distance transport and export of live American horses for slaughter in neighboring nations.


Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491; stwining@humanesociety.org