By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
On Aug. 1, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., along with cosponsor Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., reintroduced the Horse Transportation Safety Act (S. 1459), a bill that would prohibit the transportation of horses on the interstate in vehicles containing two or more levels. The AVMA has been supportive of similar legislation in past Congresses and the bill is consistent with AVMA’s policy on the humane transport of equines.
AVMA points to scientific evidence showing that horse trailers on the road containing more than one level do not adequately meet the humane space needs of a horse. This is 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 trailer was designed with two levels at the minimum height requirement for humane transport, it would need to be at least 14 feet tall, not taking into account the additional height with the tires and round clearance.
- The maximum height of a trailer on interstate highways in urban areas is 14 feet high and 16 feet high in rural areas.
- No trailer with two or more levels that met the minimum height requirements of humane transport would be able to clear a bridge in an urban environment and most likely not clear a bridge in a rural environment.
The AVMA has been actively working in previous Congresses to get the Horse Transportation Safety Act passed, but these attempts have been unsuccessful mainly due to the opposition the bill has received from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and some other livestock groups.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) finalized a rule that banned the use of double-decker trailers to transport horses bound for slaughter. This has created a disparity in transportation safety rules for the ground transport of horses.
The AVMA will be looking to move S. 1459 once again in the 113th Congress.