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USDA Tightens Rules on Transporting Horses to Slaughter
On September 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) adopted the final rule amending the regulatory protections provided under the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act (the Act) to horses bound for slaughter.
The final rule changes extend the same regulatory protections to horses transported to intermediate points, such as assembly points, feedlots, or stockyards, as those shipped directly to slaughter. The proposed rule changes were published on November 7, 2007, and the final rule changes went into effect on October 7, 2011.
In 2001, USDA adopted rules regulating the transport of horses for slaughter and subjected commercial transporters of horses to slaughter to federal regulation for the first time. The rules required shippers to 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. Once loaded the horses could not be shipped for longer than 28 hours without being off-loaded for 6 hours and given the chance to rest, eat and drink. While in transport, horses had to be checked at least every 6 hours to ensure that no horse has fallen or otherwise become physically distressed in route.
Trucks used to transport horses to processing facilities were required to segregate stallions and aggressive horses from others, provide enough room for the well-being of the horses during transport, and be equipped with doors and ramps that allowed safe loading and unloading. The rules prohibited the use of double-deck trailers to commercially transport horses to slaughter after December 7, 2006.
In November 2007, USDA proposed changes to the Act to include horses bound for slaughter but delivered first to an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard. USDA received over 90 comments during the comment period, which closed in January 2008.
The new rules broaden the protections of the Act by re-defining “equine for slaughter” to include any horse “being transferred to a slaughter facility, including an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard.” In effect, the rule changes move-up the point at which the regulations apply in the process of moving horses from farms and sales to a slaughter facility. The changes 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.
Previously, the rule only applied to horses moved to a slaughter plant, not to horses that were moved at some point to an assembly point, feedlot or stockyard. As a result, horses sold as slaughter horses could be transported to an assembly point, for example, in a double-deck trailer and without any of the protections afforded under the previous regulations. USDA believed horses were delivered to these intermediate points en route to slaughter for the sole purpose of avoiding compliance with the prior regulations. The final rule change fills that gap.
The final rule also provides that USDA will consider all horses delivered to an assembly point, feedlot or stockyard to be horses for slaughter and subject to the regulations unless the owner/shipper presents an official certificate of veterinary inspection and the original copy of a negative equine infectious anemia (EIA) test chart or other documents indicating the names and addresses of the consignor, consignee, owner and examining veterinarian for any horse being shipped, as evidence that the horses are not designated for slaughter.
The final rule changes do not apply to the transport of horses for breeding, racing, showing or recreation.
On January 7, 2008, the AHC submitted comments to USDA supporting the proposed changes to the transport regulations.