Equine Placement Network Comments On Proposed Regulations for the Commercial Transportation of Equines Act
July 17, 1999
Docket No. 98-074-1
Regulatory Analysis and Development
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Docket #: 98-074-1
Title: Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter
Docket Type: PRM
Publication Date: 5/19/99
CFR Part: 9 CFR 70, 88
FR Citation: 64 FR 27210
The following comments are respectfully submitted on behalf
of the Equine Placement Network. The Equine Placement Network
has the support of over 25 major horse industry organizations
in our efforts to pass legislation in
PA that would prohibit the use of double deck trailers to transport
horses. Over five thousand individuals, the majority of which
are horse owners and professionals in the horse industry, have
written in support of our efforts to
ban double deck trailers to transport horses.
The author's background includes 2 1/2 years in the commercial
horse transportation industry. During that period horses under
the author's care were transported from New York to California,
Canada to Florida and the entire East Coast. Duties included
accompanying the horses in the trailer during transit, overseeing
the feeding, watering and care of the horses while in transit
and during layover stops, and assisting with loading and unloading
horses of all ages, sexes, sizes and level of training. The author's
spouse has been employed as a van driver for one of the largest
commercial horse carriers in the United States for 14 years.
The author is a member of the American Horse Council and
the American Horse Protection Association. Neither one of these
organizations is representing our position on the proposed regulations
for The Commercial Transportation of Equines To Slaughter Act.
We do not believe that the USDA has fulfilled their responsibility
under the 1996 Farm Bill to regulate the transportation of equines
to slaughter as Congress intended. The Equine Placement Network
is going on record as
opposing the proposed regulation. In addition, the Equine Placement
Network is in agreement with the California Equine Council's
comments that have been submitted to the USDA.
The Equine Placement Network opposes the proposed regulations
on the following points;
1. Double deck cattle trailers will continue to be legal
for another 5 years. These trailers can have ceiling heights
as low as 5'7". Commercial horse trailers are no lower than
6'6", with most being 7' to 8' tall. According to the USDA,
double deck cattle trailers are the type most often used to transport
horses to slaughter. Using a very conservative estimate, over
200,000 horses will be forced to ride in trailers designed for
cattle and hogs that do not allow the horses to stand upright
and cause head, back & neck injuries. According to Executive
Order 12988, all local and state laws that are in conflict will
be preempted. This opens the question of the pre-emption of New
York's Ag & Markets Law Sec 359-a and other state laws that
prohibit the use of double deck trailers.
2. It will be legal to ship horses 28 hours with no water,
no food, & no rest. Equine industry transport standards are
water every 4-6 hours depending on the weather. Equine husbandry
practices recommend water no less than every 12 hours. Horses
are transported in boarded up trailers during the summer when
outside temperatures are exceeding 90 degrees. Factoring in the
humidity, and the heat index can soar to over 110. With 40 -
45 horses in a trailer it is impossible for these horses to receive
enough ventilation. Horse industry standard for the same size
trailer is 8 to 15 horses.
3. Full term pregnant mares can be shipped to slaughter,
as long as the owner / shipper, the very person who stands to
benefit by shipping the mare & the person who stands to lose
money if the mare is not shipped, does not believe
the mare will foal during the trip. Equine veterinarians have
stated that they cannot predict when a mare is going to foal.
4. The owner/shipper, the very person identified as the
person(s) inflicting the inhumane treatment to slaughter horses
has been put in charge of determining whether or not a horse
is fit to ship instead of a veterinarian. Considering that the
owner/shipper stands to lose money if the horse does not ship,
& stands to profit if the horse does ship, this is an apparent
conflict of interest. This is the fox guarding the henhouse.
5. Penalties will be civil, not criminal. In other words
law enforcement cannot enforce. Enforcement will be at the slaughterhouse,
not at auctions or feedlots prior to loading.
The proposed regulations fly in the face of every accepted
horse transportation industry practice, horse management practice
& horse husbandry practice. Horses bound for slaughter are
still horses, they have not shrunk in size, their behavior has
not changed, their need for water has not changed. They are still
alive & need to be transported in vehicles designed to transport
horses & using methods designed for horses.
We believe the definitions that Congress set forth in the
statute must remain, not the definitions that the USDA has
According to the USDA,
" To clarify its intentions, Congress set forth
definitions in the statute."
The USDA changed these definitions in the proposed regulations,
effectively narrowing the scope of the legislation and opening
an even larger loophole in the law. This effectively exempts
many slaughterbound equines from the
statute. This is not what Congress intended.
We believe that the USDA commissioned studies were biased
and flawed. The researchers in many instances contradicted their
own previously published studies and findings. The findings fly
in the face of every accepted equine industry husbandry practice.
Many of their statements can be disproven by court records, photographic
evidence and eyewitness accounts.
The two meetings hosted by the American Horse Council and
American Horse Protection Association were not open to the public
and all interested parties, and experts in the commercial transportation
of horses, (other than slaughter)
were not invited. Consulting with the very parties that are inflicting
the inhumane treatment does not make sense.
We believe that Section 88-2 (a) General Information is
in direct conflict with Executive Order 12988. Sec 88-2(a) states,
"State governments may enact and enforce regulations
that are consistent with or that are more stringent than the
regulations in proposed part 88";
Executive Order 12988 states,
" all State and local laws and regulations that
are in conflict with this rule will be pre-empted."
Several states have laws prohibiting the use of double
deck trailers which is " in conflict " with the proposed
use of double deck cattle trailers for five years. Several states
also have laws that are more stringent than 28 hours without
water. Would these laws be pre-empted under Executive Order 12988,
or would they remain in effect? We do not believe it was Congress'
intent to supersede state law, nor create grounds for legal battles
as to whether or not state
law is in conflict and thus who has supremacy, the state law
or the federal law.
The USDA, in drafting the proposed regulations ignores
their own findings by continuing to allow the use of double deck
cattle trailers for five years. The USDA states that the
"purpose of the statute is to ensure the humane
movement of equines to slaughtering facilities"
Sec 88.3 (1) Be designed, constructed and maintained in
a manner that at all times protects the health and well-being
of the equines being transported
The USDA is proposing that the animal cargo space,
Sec 88.3 (2) have sufficient interior height to allow each
equine on the conveyance to stand with its head extended to the
fullest normal postural height; and (4) be equipped with doors
and ramps of sufficient design, size, and location to provide
for safe loading and unloading.
The USDA states,
"Double deck trailers do not provide adequate headroom
for equines...adult equines transported in double deck trailers
can acquire cuts and abrasions to their heads , which scrape
the tops of the compartments. "
" as a result of having to stand with their heads
in a lowered position, they cannot maintain their balance as
easily and sustain injuries from falling. "
The USDA then goes on to state,
"because the purpose of the statute is to ensure
the humane transport of equines to slaughtering facilities, the
means of conveying the equines must not be a source of harm to
"Research has shown that the use of double-deck
trailers for transporting equines to slaughtering facilities
is likely to cause injuries and trauma to the equines. Double-deck
trailers do not provide adequate headroom for equines, with the
possible exception of foals and yearlings; therefore, adult equines
transported in double-deck trailers can acquire cuts and abrasions
to their heads, which scrape the tops of the compartments. In
addition, the equines cannot stand in a normal position with
their heads raised. As a result of having to stand with their
heads in a lowered position, they cannot maintain balance as
easily and sustain injuries from falling. In addition, the ramps
used to load animals onto double-deck trailers are at a relatively
steep angle. "
The USDA states,
"that the vast majority of injuries caused to equines
are actually in transit or during loading and unloading."
"For these reasons, we do not believe that equines
can be safely and humanely transported on a conveyance that has
an animal cargo space divided into two or more stacked levels.."
Dr. Temple Grandin, PhD and Sharon E. Cregler, PhD in an
article titled, "To Market, To Market Check Before you Buy
or Sell A Horse published in Live Animal Trade And Transport
Magazine in April 1989 states,
"Double deck and
possum belly transport must be outlawed for carrying full- sized
The USDA also mentions equines' higher center of gravity
and the fact that a double deck trailer tall enough to allow
equines to stand upright with equines on two levels would be
extremely top heavy and prone to tipping. The fact is
that double deck trailers on the highways currently with equines
on two levels are top heavy and prone to tipping.
Trailers designed to transport horses commercially do not
have a ceiling height less than 6'6". In conversations with
trailer manufacturers, and from personal experience in the horse
transportation industry, commercial trailers start at
a height of 7' and often have an interior height of 8'. It is
impossible to use a trailer with two levels stacked on top of
each other and each level having a 7' or 8' ceiling height. The
trailers would not be able to fit under highway
underpasses and would also be extremely top heavy and prone to
tipping. A public safety hazard. Motor carrier inspectors and
truck drivers alike agree that these top heavy trucks pose a
I have witnessed a double deck trailer swaying dangerously
when horses inside the trailer started to "scramble"
for footing. The commotion inside the trailer could have occurred
for many reasons, horses fighting for position, a
horse(s) lost their footing, and/or an injured horse went down.
Needless to say the driver did NOT check on the welfare of the
horses, but waited until the trailer stopped swaying before continuing
to move the trailer. The driver's
concern was not for the horses, but for the trailer overturning.
The fact is that double deck trailers on the highways currently
with equines on two levels are top heavy and prone to tipping.
In addition, more than one owner/shipper at Pennsylvania
sales have had their tractor trailers put out of service by truck
inspectors due to inadequate brakes. Accidents involving the
overturning of these trucks has been documented.
It is unbelievable that the USDA and Congress intend to
continue to allow public safety to be put at risk for another
In the process of drafting New York State Law, the New
York State legislature contacted horse trailer manufacturers.
This method is a very inexpensive and practical way of determining
the equine industry standard for trailer heights. The horse trailer
manufacturing industry cannot sell horse trailers that are 6'
6" or less for full size horses, so they do not routinely
manufacture that size trailer for full size horses. If they did,
they would soon be out of business due to a lack of trailer sales.
The exception is custom orders for miniature horses or small
For years the horse industry and the agriculture industry
has known that horses do not fit in double deck cattle trailers.
Funding another study was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
According to the USDA:
Livestock trailers not used to haul equines can be serviceable
for approximately 10 years. Trailers used to haul equines need
to be replaced sooner because equines inflict significant damage
to livestock trailers during transport.
We believe that many of the double-deck trailers currently used
to transport equines will need to be replaced in approximately
5 to 7 years.
The fact is, in Pennsylvania a double deck trailer that
is 17 years old is being used to transport equines to slaughter,
and has been in use for this purpose for at least 7 years. Documentation
can be obtained from New York court records. According to the
USDA, double decks carry equines only 10 percent of the time
when in use, so an outright ban of doubles cannot negatively
impact an entity that is using a double deck for other purposes
90 percent of the time.
The fact is, at least two entities that ship horses to
slaughter, own and use single tier trailers in addition to their
double deck trailers. As far as the USDA's concern of negatively
impacting the shippers financially, at least one of these shippers,
who also owns a single tier trailer, continues to use a double
deck trailer in violation of New York law, even though another
arrest, and/or conviction could cost this shipper tens of thousands
of dollars in fines and attorney fees combined, not to mention
jail time. This also demonstrates that civil penalties are not
an effective means of deterring violations.
The double deck trailers can be sold, and or traded for
a single tier trailer, used to transport the animals they were
designed to transport, and/or leased to another company.
The USDA states that double decks are inhumane for transporting
The USDA states that the purpose of the statute is to ensure
the humane transport of equines to slaughter and that the conveyance
must not cause harm to the equine.
The USDA states that to ease the "negative economic
impact" on an entity that uses double deck trailers, they
will allow their use for another 5 years, yet estimates that
while in use, it is only used 10 percent of the time to transport
The USDA has put more emphasis on NOT costing the entities
involved any financial hardship, over what Congress mandated
the USDA do; ensure the humane transport of equines to slaughter.
Section 88.4 Requirements For Transport
The USDA ignores their own findings, other equine research
and accepted equine industry standard on the length of time an
equine can humanely travel on a trailer without food, water and
rest. Accepted equine transportation industry standard is to
water horses every 4- 6 hours depending on the weather conditions.
Under certain weather conditions and certain transportation conditions,
horses are given access to water free choice during transit.
The USDA is proposing that the shipper or owner;
Sec 88.4 a (1) " ...for at least 6 hours prior to
being loaded on the conveyance, equines in commercial transportation
to a slaughtering facility be provided with appropriate food,
potable water, and the opportunity to rest because research has
shown that equines that have been provided these things prior
to transit can be transported for at least 28 hours with no adverse
health effects. Access to water is the most serious concern.
Many equines do not experience serious physiologic distress for
30 hour without water if they have had access to water during
the 6-hour period prior to deprivation.
" ... after consultation with interested parties
at the two meetings mentioned previously, we believe that the
proposed 28-hour maximum allowable timeframe for deprivation
of food, water, and rest during transport to slaughter is appropriate".
Dr Stull when not being funded by the USDA to study slaughter
horses, contradicts the 28 hours with no water proposal. In a
Physiology, Balance, and Management of Horses During Transportation
Dr. Carolyn Stull Ph.D. states,
"The upper critical temperature (UCT), approximately
75° to 90°F, is reached when the horse cannot dissipate
enough metabolic heat to the environment to maintain homeothermy.
Humidity is a major factor in the determination of the UCT. The
horse dissipated heat through respiration and sweating mechanisms.
In hot environmental conditions, the horse's feed intake may
decrease. Water availability is essential to avoid dehydration.
Transportation in hot, humid conditions should attempt to minimize
thermal stress by a careful selection of departure/arrival schedules
to avoid the hottest portion of the day, offering water every
4-6 hours, and limiting the duration of the trip. In hot conditions,
it is important to keep the trailer moving and avoid parking
for long periods. Temperature in a trailer is usually 10°
to 15°F greater than outside temperatures (Smith, 1996)."
"Water should be offered every 6 to 8 hours, if
The USDA also funded research by Dr. Theodore Friend, Department
Of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
Texas A& M University. Interviewed by K. S. Herbert, for
the article, Searching For A Good
Ride : Research On Transporting Horses To Slaughter" published
in The Horse : Your Guide To Equine Health Care in October 1997,
Dr. Friend stated,
"If you have to haul horses more than 24 hours,
then the truck must be equipped with a watering device."
There is no proposal for a watering device on the trailers
in the proposed regulations. From experience transporting horses
together loose in a box stall, and from observing horses in herd
situations, there is a question as to whether or not a watering
vice on the trailer would allow all horses an opportunity to
drink due to the herd pecking order.
Other experts in horse health during transport state the
Catherine Kohn, VMD, Ohio State University.
" It is important to offer horses water every four
hours or so during travel."
Desmond Leadon, MA, MVB, MSc, FRCVS, RCVS, registered C/specialist
in equine medicine, is the head clinician in the Pathology Unit
at the Irish Equine Center.
"Water the horses every six to eight hours, and
water intake should be monitored"
Ray Geor, DVM, is president of the Association of Equine
"Taking steps to ensure that the horse maintains
hydration is also important. Fluid losses can be substantial
(up to 0.5% of body weight per hour). So, over a 12-hour period,
the average-sized horse may lose 20kg or more as sweat and other
"insensible" fluid losses. Horses need access to water
on a regular
basis during transport (at least every four to six hours)."
"Heat and humidity are the main external environmental
factors. Problems with poor ventilation will be compounded in
hot/humid conditions. In addition, the horse is likely to sweat
more under such conditions, so water may have to be offered at
more frequent intervals. Some consideration must be given to
time of day for travel in hot conditions, the length of travel,
and the frequency of rest stops (for access to water)."
It is not uncommon for boarded up double deck cattle trailers
to leave Pennsylvania horse auctions destined for Texas slaughterhouses
in mid afternoon when the temperature is in the 90's with high
Sec 88.4 a (3) (iii) Fails to include a horses' tattoo
information that must be recorded, even though many horses going
to slaughter are former racehorses which are tattooed. A tattoo
is a very common method of identifying a horse.
The USDA is proposing, Sec 88.4 a (3) (v), that the owner/shipper,
instead of a veterinarian determine whether or not a horse is
fit to travel. When the owner /shipper stands to make money from
every horse deemed fit to travel, and
stands to lose money from every horse deemed unfit to travel,
there is an obvious conflict of interest. Considering the fact
that it is well documented in the horse slaughter industry that
sick, injured and crippled horses are routinely sent through
auctions and transported to slaughter by owner/shippers, this
is obviously a case of the fox guarding the hen house.
The USDA/APHIS commissioned study conducted by Temple Grandin,
Kasie McGee and Jennifer Lanier and reported in Survey of Trucking
Practices and Injury To Slaughter Horses was conducted at the
sale in New Holland,
Pennsylvania, and at two slaughter plants in Texas. A total of
1008 horses were surveyed. Sixty-three trailer loads were observed
in July and August of 1998 arriving at Texas slaughterhouses.
It should be noted that two weeks prior to this study being
conducted at the sale in New Holland, the Pennsylvania State
Police had officers both inside the auction and outside the auction
due to complaints regarding the inhumane
treatment of horses at he sale and inhumane trucking practices.
The following week, the Department of Revenue was also outside
the auction. In the Pennsylvania horse community grapevine, the
word was out not to bring any "bad" horses to New Holland.
Even so, Dr. Grandin's research at the New Holland sale
"There was a total of 21 horses (12.5%) which had
welfare problems which were caused by the owner..."
"Severe welfare problems caused by the owner were
significantly greater than welfare problems caused by transport.
"Approximately 73% of the severe welfare problems
observed at the slaughter plants did not occur during transport
or marketing. Some examples of severe welfare problems which
were caused by the owner were severely foundered feet, emaciated,
skinny, weak horses, animals which had became
non-ambulatory and injuries to the legs such as bowed tendons.
Four horses were loaded with broken legs. One of these horses
was a bucking bronc that had broken its leg during a rodeo. It
died shortly after arrival a plant. Out of 1008 horses observed
at the slaughter plants, 7.7% had severe welfare problems."
Yet the USDA states,
"that the vast majority of injuries caused to equines
are actually in transit or during loading and unloading."
Considering that in Pennsylvania the owner/shippers of
slaughter horses have:
been convicted in New York of the illegal transport of
have refused to pay Essex County, New York a $11,100 fine
for the illegal transport of horses;
have publicly stated they will continue to break New York
lied to law enforcement;
violated both state and Federal motor vehicle codes;
violated state agriculture codes;
been convicted of DUI and pled guilty to driving with a
revoked Commercial Drivers License;
determined that a mule with a broken leg held on only by
the skin and a heart rate over 60 was fit to ship. Stated they
believed the injury to be a bowed tendon;
a severely foundered horse with a heart rate over 60 was
fit to ship, against the advice of a full time equine veterinarian;
that severely foundered horses that cannot stand without
being forced to their feet are fit to ship,
do not keep the required paperwork on the horses;
and never seem to know how injured, sick or disabled horses
get on their truck and they do not own them;
The USDA's decision to trust the owner/shippers to fill
out the owner/shipper certificate accurately and truthfully borders
on the absurd. It makes common sense to regulate the shipment
of horses to slaughter at the point of origin,
and at the final destination. To ensure the humane treatment
of horses transported to slaughter, the USDA must prevent horses
that are suffering from severe welfare problems from enduring
transport to the slaughterhouse.
Enforcement only at the slaughterhouse is comparable to closing
the barn door after the horse has escaped.
The USDA states,
"For practical reasons, we do not propose to regulate
the care of equines destined for slaughter prior to loading on
the conveyance for shipment to the slaughtering facility. Most
shippers acquire equines for sale to slaughtering facilities
at livestock auctions."
USDA inspectors are supposed to be available at livestock
auctions to inspect for compliance by auctions with other USDA
regulations. It makes much more sense to prevent a violation
at the point of loading, than at the final destination.
The prohibition of cattle prods, Sec 88.4 c (3) during
loading could also be monitored. The reality is, there will be
NO enforcement of this proposed regulation at loading because
there will be no witnesses, except the violators
themselves. It is a known fact that owners/shippers of slaughter
horses prefer to do their loading when nobody is watching. If
as the USDA proposes there will be no regulation at livestock
auctions, then it will be legal for the
owner/shippers to use cattle prods at livestock auctions.
The USDA states in the proposed regulations that an owner/shipper
"would also be helpful in the traceback of any
Tracing a stolen horse back from the slaughterhouse should
certainly be employed, but stolen horses could be located at
the point of loading if the USDA was to enforce the regulations
at all of the locations listed under Congress' definition of
equines to slaughter. A stolen horse that is located after transport
to a slaughterhouse is most likely in very poor condition due
to the type of vehicle the horse was transported in, the lack
of food, water and rest, and will in all probability not recover,
and/or at the very least cause the rightful owner of the equine,
extraordinary expenses in veterinarian, transport, and boarding
fees, and in many cases making it prohibitive for the owner to
recover at the very least their horse, and/or the use of the
horse. As stated above, regulation prior to loading is much better
than enforcement after the fact.
Section 88.5 Requirements at a Slaughter Facility
The proposed rules under this section state,
"88.5 (4) (c) Any shipper transporting equines
to slaughtering facilities outside of the United States must
present the owner-shipper certificates to USDA representatives
at the border."
Considering the fact that the owner/shipper is going to
be put in charge of determining the fitness of the equine to
ship, and the USDA is not proposing to regulate the equines at
point of loading, and the USDA states,
"Finally, we are proposing to require that shippers
transporting equines to slaughtering facilities outside of the
United States present the owner-shipper certificates to USDA
representatives at the border so that we can ensure the well-being
of the equines as well as track the numbers of equines being
shipped out of the country for slaughter elsewhere. When they
deem it necessary, USDA representatives at the border would conduct
inspections of conveyances carrying equines destined for slaughter
outside the United States."
Nowhere does it state that the USDA inspector shall inspect
the equines to determine whether or not they are fit to travel,
and if the description on the owner/shipper certificate matches
the equines. Again, considering the fact that
many equines transported to slaughter have severe welfare problems,
and taking into consideration the USDA's proposed lack of regulation
prior to loading, it is necessary to ensure the humane transport
of equines to slaughter for the USDA inspector at the border
to be requested
ed to inspect each equine for compliance with the fit to travel
The proposed rules do not state that the USDA inspector
must inspect the animal cargo area.
88.4 (a)(4) Allow a USDA representative access to the animal
cargo area of the conveyance for the purpose of inspection.
Money spent by APHIS on public information efforts would
be spent more productively on inspectors at feedlots, assembly
points or stockyards. Shippers of slaughterbound equines already
know how to properly ship horses. Owner/shippers have the knowledge
to transport equines properly, demonstrated by the fact that
they are able to transport horses for resale into the riding
and show market following equine industry standards. The attitude
with slaughter horses has always been,
"They are going to die anyway, what does it matter?"
They are horses.
They are still alive.
The horse industry organizations and the individuals that
support these proposed regulations and who promote these regulations
to their membership, should hang their heads in shame. It is
unbelievable and inexcusable that any horsemen would endorse
28 hours without water. The continued use of double decks. The
killer buyer in charge of a horse's fitness to ship. In addition,
nowhere, nowhere is there any mention of providing the horses'
with secure footing. The shipment of a full term pregnant mare
to slaughter. Obviously, those who support these proposed regulations
are not true horsemen.
We strongly believe that to ensure the humane treatment
of equines to slaughter there must be an outright ban of double
deck trailers and water every 12 hours. As proposed, these regulations
will do nothing more than legalize every inhumane practice.
Equine Placement Network