AVMA takes stance against double-deck trailers for equine transport

Published on May 15, 2008
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equine transport
Emergency personnel respond to an incident involving a double-deck trailer
transporting 59 horses and ponies near Wadsworth, Ill., in fall 2007. The trailer had
overturned, leading to the death or euthanasia of 13 horses on the scene and the
euthanasia of five more horses afterward. The incident prompted introduction of a
bill to ban double-deck trailers for equine transport in Illinois.

The AVMA opposes the use of double-deck trailers for the transportation of equines because of safety concerns, according to a new policy that the Executive Board approved in mid-April.

The policy follows recent vehicular incidents involving equine transport that caught the attention of the public and the press, including the rollover of a double-deck trailer in Illinois last fall that resulted in the deaths of 18 of 59 equines.

The new AVMA policy, "Humane transport of equines," starts by stating:

"Studies published in peer-reviewed journals and the professional experience of veterinarians indicate that more equines are injured during transport in double-deck trailers than in single-deck trailers. The AVMA supports the use of best practices when transporting animals and therefore opposes the use of double-decked trailers to transport equines. In addition, the AVMA encourages state and federal agencies that govern the transport of equines to adopt rules, regulations, and enforcement provisions that ensure equines are transported humanely."

The policy also provides some guidance on assessing the appropriateness of trailers for equine transport.

Previously, the AVMA has voiced support of the Department of Agriculture's regulations for the transport of equines to slaughter—which prohibit the use of double-deck trailers, among other restrictions.

The Animal Welfare Committee, which drafted the AVMA policy, did not limit the policy to transport of equines to slaughter because committee members believe minimum standards for transport should apply regardless of the destination of the equines. The American Association of Equine Practitioners' welfare committee and board conveyed support of the AVMA policy.