By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division
U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) recently introduced legislation that places a federal ban on the use of double-decker trailers for the transport of horses. The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2014 (H.R. 4440) is the companion bill to S. 1459, introduced in the Senate last year by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and will ensure horses have the proper headroom they need to safely and humanely travel along America’s highways.
The AVMA has been supportive of similar legislation in previous Congresses because it is consistent with its policy on the Humane Transport of Equines, which says, among other things, that the conveyances transporting horses must “be designed, constructed and maintained to protect the health and welfare of the equines being transported at all times.”
Scientific data shows that it is impossible to construct a multi-level trailer that provides horses with the adequate headroom they need on both levels, while also meeting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s height restrictions to safely pass under bridges on the nation’s highways. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees with this assessment stating:
“[T]here is a significant body of evidence indicating that many more equines are injured during transport in double-deck trailers than in single-deck trailers. The overpasses on most U.S. interstate highways are between 14- to 16-feet high. A tall equine can be 8 feet tall to the top of its head when standing on all four legs and close to 12 feet tall when rearing. Therefore, we believe that no conveyance is capable, under normal circumstances, of traversing most U.S. highways while carrying equines standing in a normal postural position on two or more stacked levels.”
It is absolutely critical that horses be given the opportunity to stand up straight while traveling so they can hold their heads in a normal, comfortable position and balance their high centers of gravity.
In addition, the AVMA believes the Horse Transportation Safety Act is necessary to clear up a disparity in transportation safety rules which currently exists. In 2011, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service finalized a rule that bans the double-decker transport of horses bound for slaughter. All horses should be given the same opportunity to stand at a normal height during transport, not just those going to slaughter.
The association will be working to get this bill passed once again this Congress. You can help! Contact your congressmen and senators today and ask them to cosponsor the Horse Transportation Safety Act.