January 9, 2008

The American Horse Council has told the US Department of Agriculture that it supports the department's proposal to tighten regulations governing the commercial transportation of equines for slaughter.

The proposed changes would extend the regulatory protections provided by the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act to horses bound for slaughter, but delivered first to an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard.

This practice was being used to circumvent the slaughter transport regulations, which required standards of care in the transport of horses including feeding, watering, and offloading after a period of time.

"The AHC was one of the principal organizations involved in passing the Commercial Transport of Horses to Slaughter Act. The AHC was also involved in working with USDA in drafting the rules adopted under the Act to regulate the transport of equines for slaughter in December, 2001," said Jay Hickey, AHC President.

The rules presently require that shippers certify the fitness of these horses to travel and provide them with water, food, and rest for 6 hours prior to being loaded for transport. Horses cannot be shipped for more than 28 hours without being off-loaded for 6 hours and given the chance to rest, eat and drink. While in transport, horses must be checked at least every 6 hours to ensure that no horse has fallen or is in distress. Trucks used to transport horses to processing facilities must allow for the segregation of stallions and aggressive horses from others.

The rules prohibited the use of double-deck trailers to commercially transport horses to slaughter after December 7, 2006.

"The current rules apply only to the transport of horses directly to the slaughter plant, not to any initial shipment to an assembly point, feedlot or stockyard during the shipping process," said Hickey. "USDA felt that this was a gap in the protections of the Act and the AHC agrees."

The proposed change would broaden the protections to include all horses "being transferred to a slaughter facility, including an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard."

In effect, the proposed changes would move-up the point at which the regulations apply in the process of moving horses from sales, farms, and other points to a slaughter facility. This would provide horses delivered to intermediate points en route to slaughter with the same protections regarding food, water, hour limits, and the prohibition on double-decker trucks as those horses moved directly to plants.

The rules do not - and would not under the proposed changes - apply to the transport of horses for other purposes, such as breeding, racing, show or recreation.