Double-decker livestock trailers, commonly used to transport cattle and pigs, are still used to transport horses in the United States. If H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, passes through Congress, this will no longer be the case.
Additionally, accidents involving double-decker trailers loaded with horses are often more dangerous than those involving other vehicles, and are a burden to local first responders. A 2007 accident in Illinois left 15 Belgian horses dead and spurred a movement to ban double-decker trailers in that state.
While the use of double-decker trailers is most commonly associated with the horse slaughter industry, these vehicles are sometimes used by horse traders and rodeo stock contractors. Since 2006, transporting horses to slaughterhouses in multi-level trailers has been against the law. That ban left a loophole for slaughter-bound horses being transported to a stopover before the slaughterhouse, but 2011 legislation expanded the ban to include horses in any phase of transport to slaughter. The wording in the current bill would ban transport of any horses–slaughter-bound or otherwise–in such trailers with a fine of $100-500 for each horse transported.
PROHIBITION.—No person may transport,
or cause to be transported, a horse from a place in
a State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or
possession of the United States through or to a
place in another State, the District of Columbia, or
a territory or possession of the United States in a
motor vehicle containing 2 or more levels stacked on
top of each other.
CIVIL PENALTY.—A person that
knowingly violates subsection (d) is liable to the
United States Government for a civil penalty of
at least $100 but not more than $500 for each
violation. A separate violation occurs under sub15
section (d) for each horse that is transported,
or caused to be transported, in violation of sub17
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) had proposed an amendment to strip the section on horse transportation, but it was rejected in a voice vote. The language will be included when the bill goes to the House of Representatives for a full vote.
Supporters of the double-decker ban include the ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medical Association. Opponents include Sen. Max Baucus (R-MT), a vocal supporter of horse slaughter. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Baucus wrote:
“Put simply, we need common-sense policies in place to achieve safe conditions on our roads that don’t include arbitrary bans on trailers that our constituents rely on. Rodeo operators in particular have a need for trailers that are specially adapted for their hauling purposes.
“Regulation for regulation’s sake does not help anyone. Rodeo is an important part of Montana’s culture and tradition and I will work to make sure that we preserve those traditions for future generations of Montanans. The Senate needs to come together to find common sense solutions to making our roads safer, not arbitrary bans that affect rural states like Montana.”
The AVMA, which also takes a pro-slaughter stand, has outlined its objections to transportation of horses in double-decker trailers on its website:
The AVMA believes trailers on the road containing two or more levels to transport horses are not adequately equipped to humanely meet the space needs of a horse based on the following observations:
- A horse needs a minimum of 7 to 8 feet of height per level to have the ability to fully raise its head while standing
- If such a conveyance was designed with two levels at the minimum height requirement for humane transport, the trailer would be at least 14 feet tall without taking into account the height added by tires
- The maximum height of a trailer on interstate highways in urban areas is 14 Feet and 16 feet in rural areas
- No trailer with two or more levels that meets the minimum height requirements of humane transport would clear a bridge in an urban environment and most likely not clear a bridge in a rural environment