Horse transportation rules imposed by USDA

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As of Feb. 5, 2002, the Department of Agriculture will impose several new rules on the care of horses destined for slaughter, including prohibiting the transport of those that are under six months of age, severely debilitated, likely to give birth during transit, or blind in both eyes. Horses must have access to food, water, and rest for six hours, immediately prior to loading. Animals in transit for more than 28 consecutive hours must be offloaded and given rest for six hours.

Owners must now provide back tags for proper identification of animals, and separate stallions and aggressive horses during transport. The use of electric prods is no longer allowed, and the use of double-deck trailers for moving horses will be phased out over a five-year period. The regulations will create additional paperwork for both owners and commercial shippers, however, the USDA expects the economic effects to be minimal. Penalties for non-compliance can range up to $5,000 per violation.

The regulations are well-timed. Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy have caused shortages of various types of meat overseas. As a result, horse meat has increased in value, and the number of horses slaughtered in the United States has risen.

The document was published in the Dec. 7, 2001 Federal Register by USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Individuals may access the full rule at