Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) commends members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for passing the Horse Transportation Safety Act (HTSA) on June 10 as part of land transportation legislation. The HTSA would prohibit the use of unsafe double-decker trailers to transport horses in international trade.

The $ 547 billion package sets federal transportation policy and approves a wide range of programs over the next five years. The transport invoice includes the HTSA (HR 921), which is intended to ensure that horses are not exposed to dangerous and inhuman conditions during transport. The AWI has long pushed for the adoption of the HTSA to ban the transport of horses in vehicles that endanger both animals and motorists. The bill, led by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), currently has 121 co-sponsors.

A vote by the entire chamber is expected later this summer.

The impetus for the HTSA was a terrible accident a few years ago in which a double-decker trailer with 59 Belgian draft horses overturned in Wadsworth, Illinois, killing 19 horses. The tragedy shed light on the reckless practice of packing horses in trailers designed for much shorter and stronger animals such as cattle and pigs.

“Stuffing horses in double-decker trailers and hauling them over long distances is dangerous and inhumane,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., Equine Program Manager and Senior Advisor at AWI. “While some states have already banned this practice, a federal ban is essential to protect horses and motorists.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a minimum of 7 or 8 feet clearance for horses; Double decker trailers typically have 4 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 5 inches of ceiling clearance, which usually does not allow horses to stand comfortably or even extend their head and neck completely inward. In addition, since horses cannot maintain proper balance, they are at greater risk of injury from falls. Horses can also injure themselves when loading onto the steep ramp of a double-decker trailer.

The US Department of Agriculture banned the use of double-decker trailers to transport horses for slaughter in 2011 on the grounds that such vehicles (with two or more levels stacked one on top of the other) could prove “extremely top-heavy and prone to tipping.”
The HTSA would finally fill the void that allows other horses to travel across state lines in double-decker trailers.

“I am pleased that the Horse Transportation Safety Act was incorporated into the passage of the INVEST in America Act this morning,” said Cohen. “These wonderful animals deserve to be transported as humanely as possible. Double-decker trailers do not provide sufficient headroom for fully grown horses, and accidents with double-decker trailers are a terrible reminder that this practice is dangerous for the driving public as well. “

“As a society, it is imperative that we protect the welfare of animals both large and small,” added Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the bipartisan Animal Welfare Committee of Congress and an outspoken animal defender, I continue to work to ensure that our government does its part to promote animal welfare. I am proud to stand by Representative Cohen to ensure the safe and humane treatment of horses on highways and roads. I look forward to the swift adoption of this law in the House. “

“It is high time Congress closed the loophole that is causing horses to be transported in harmful ways,” said Titus. “I am proud that we were able to advance our amendment to protect these beautiful animals.”