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ASPCA Welcomes Legislation to Protect Horses During Transport

Horse Transportation Safety Act prohibits double-decker trailers
June 29, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for authoring S. 1281, the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011. The legislation seeks to make the transportation of horses safer by prohibiting double-decker trailers and preventing accidents caused by the instability of such vehicles.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report recommending a ban on the use of double-decker vehicles for horse transport, identifying this as one of the most serious problems affecting the welfare of American horses sent to slaughter. Designed for cattle and short-necked livestock, these vehicles do not provide adequate space for horses to retain their balance, leading to unstable footing, falls, injuries, trampling and death. Accidents in recent years have created gruesome roadside scenes of horses twisted, entangled, dead and dying, while motorists witnessed responders in shock and unprepared for such a disaster. Local communities have had to foot the bill for the rescue and rehabilitation costs in most cases.

During the 111th Congress in 2009, Senator Kirk, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, authored a similar bill, known as H.R. 305, which was approved in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee but ran out of time for consideration by the full House and Senate.

"We've put the cart before the horse, literally, for too long and the ASPCA is gratified to see action on Capitol Hill that would prevent this cruel and unsafe method of horse transport," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the ASPCA. "Senator Kirk skillfully led this effort last Congress, after seeing the aftermath of a horrific spill in his state, and Senator Lautenberg brings a forceful and compassionate voice to this cause."

The American Veterinarian Medical Association supported the past legislation, as did all major humane and equine organizations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 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," said Sen. Kirk. "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."

"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," said Sen. Lautenberg. "Double-decker trailers cram horses into tight spaces and create dangerous, top-heavy loads that can lead to horrific accidents."