Federal Issue Brief

 S. 1281, Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011

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AVMA Position:

Active Pursuit of Passage 


Introduced by Senator Mark Kirk (IL), S. 1281 would amend title 49, United States Code, to prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate commerce in a motor vehicle (except a vehicle operated exclusively on rail or rails) containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another. The legislation sets forth civil penalties for persons who knowingly violate such prohibition. 


  • S. 1281 is consistent with the AVMA policy on Humane Transport of Equines
  • The AVMA has consistently supported related proposals to protect the welfare of horses in transit to slaughter:
    • AVMA representatives were members of a group that worked with USDA to draft regulations, adopted in 2001, which created the Slaughter Horse Transport Program (SHTP).
    • The AVMA is supportive of the recent issue of APHIS' final rule on Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter, which bans double-decker trailers on the entire transport chain of horses bound to slaughter. (Docket No. APHIS-2006-0168)
  • Scientific Data and Reasoning:
    • Limited data within the scientific literature indicate increased rates of injury associated with the use of double-decked conveyances for transporting horses.
    • The National Agriculture Safety Database and various manufacturers producing trailers specifically for horse transport recommend heights of 7 to 8 feet as being necessary for the safe and comfortable transport of horses (i.e., adequate headroom for the horses to stand comfortably with their heads in normal position).
    • Current interstate highway regulations require a minimum vertical clearance under overhead structures of 16 feet in rural areas and 14 feet in urban areas, with vertical clearance through truss bridges of at least 17 feet.
    • It will exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to meet such recommendations via the use of currently configured double-deck trailers, particularly for taller horses.

Current Status:

  • Referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

AVMA Contact:

Dr. Whitney Miller, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations Division, 202-289-3211