The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is looking to close a loophole in its regulations on the commercial transport of horses to slaughter facilities.
Current regulations protect horses that are being commercially transported directly to slaughter. A proposed rule in the Nov. 7 Federal Register would amend those regulations to extend protection to horses that are bound for slaughter but delivered first to an assembly point, feedlot, or stockyard.
The USDA-APHIS stated it believes "that equines may be delivered to these intermediate points en route to slaughter for the sole purpose of avoiding compliance with the regulations."
One reason for the updated regulations is to curb the use of double-deck trailers for the transport of horses. The trailers are currently not allowed to be used to transport horses directly to slaughter facilities. But APHIS noted that it has received numerous reports of truckers using the trailers to transport horses to assembly points, feedlots, or stockyards, and then reloading them onto straight-deck trailers for the final leg of the trip to the slaughtering facility.
The proposed rule came just under two weeks after a double-deck semitrailer carrying 59 horses overturned in northern Illinois. The Oct. 27 incident left 18 horses dead and dozens more injured. As of early November, the driver was reportedly charged with traffic violations and investigators were looking into whether additional charges were warranted.
Meanwhile, legislation was introduced in Illinois shortly after the accident to ban the use of double-deck trailers to transport horses in the state, no matter what the destination. If passed, Illinois would join New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont in outlawing the trailers for transporting horses.
While the AVMA doesn't have a policy regarding the use of double-deck trailers, the Association was supportive of the phaseout of the trailers for transporting horses to slaughter when APHIS established the transportation regulations in 2001.
The USDA-APHIS will accept comments on the proposed rule until Jan. 7, 2008. To submit comments electronically, visit www.regulations.gov, select Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the agency drop-down menu, then click Submit. In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0168 to submit or view public comments.
Comments may also be submitted via mail to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0168, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
To submit comments electronically,
Animal and Plant Health
from the agency drop-down menu,
then click Submit.