May 23, 2008

Despite strong support for a bill banning the use of double deck trailers for hauling horses in Illinois, the legislation died earlier this week in a Senate Committee following a lobbying effort by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The Bill failed when the bureau insisted on attaching an amendment that would have exempted double-deck "horse" trailers, arguing that a humane double-decker specifically designed for horses might be built in the future.

H.B. 4162 was introduced following the horrific "Wadsworth Crash" of 2007 in which 59 Belgian draft horses were severely or fatally injured after the double-deck trailer they were being transported in was overturned.

The Animal Welfare Institute says transporting horses on such vehicles that are actually designed for smaller species like cattle and hogs is not only inhumane but unsafe, given their top-heavy nature.

"In truth, no such vehicle could be engineered that would be both comfortable for the horses and safe for transport on US roads and highways," said Chris Heyde, the AWI's Deputy Director. "Such a vehicle would need to be at least 17 feet tall and in reality even higher, would be dangerously top-heavy and would exceed the clearance space in many tunnels and overpasses.

"Ultimately, since no regulatory definition of a 'horse' trailer exists, the amendment would have had the real effect of allowing unscrupulous transporters to still put their horses on a double-decker originally designed for cattle, simply call it a 'horse' trailer, and bypass the proposed law," Heyde said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, US Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Animal Welfare Institute, and many Illinois horse owners and horse transport companies all support an end to the transport of horses on double-deckers.

"The AWI commends the sponsors of H.B. 4162, Representative JoAnn Osmond, Representative Bob Molaro and Senator John Cullerton for fighting to protect horses from this cruel form of transportation," said Heyde.

"Their commitment to equine welfare is commendable. We look forward to working with them and other compassionate legislators in the future to ban the transport of horses via double-deck trailers in Illinois. The fight is far from over."