AVMA Advocate: AVMA Urges Highway Bill Conferees to Protect Horse Safety

By Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

After months of debate on how to go about reauthorizing federal support for surface transportation programs, with multiple versions of the so-called “highway bills” moving through Congress, the House and the Senate have moved into the conference stage. The conference committee will debate specifics of the legislation and hopefully come out with one bill to recommend for final passage by both chambers. The current bill under debate is H.R. 4348. The major points of contention deal with how the federal government will come up with the money to pay for the programs in the bill, which states say are vital to protecting the integrity of the U.S. highway system. 

The AVMA has sent a letter to the 47 members of the conference committee, urging them to include language banning the interstate transportation of horses in vehicles containing two or more levels. This language is consistent with the AVMA policy on Humane Transport of Equines, and was included in two previously debated versions of the highway bills (S. 1950 and H.R. 7). 

The AVMA believes trailers on the road containing two or more levels to transport horses are not adequately equipped to humanely meet the space needs of a horse based on the following observations: 

  • A horse needs a minimum of 7 to 8 feet in height per level to have the ability to fully raise its head while standing.
  • If such a conveyance was designed with two levels at the minimum height requirement for humane transport, the trailer would be at least 14 feet tall without taking into account the height added by tires and round clearance.
  • The maximum height of a trailer on interstate highways in urban areas is 14 feet, and 16 feet in rural areas.
  • No trailer with two or more levels that met the minimum height requirements for humane transport would clear a bridge in an urban environment and most likely not clear a bridge in a rural environment. 

To view the letter sent to conferees, click here. For more information on the bill, see S. 1281 Horse Transportation Safety Act

For more information please contact Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

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