Ban on horse transport in double-decker trailers to go before the House of Representatives


Livestock trailerDouble-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.

Animal welfare activists have fought for a ban on horse transport in double-decker trailers because of what they say are inhumane conditions for equines. While pigs and cattle fit easily on the two levels of the trailer, horses are taller and must be able to raise and move their necks at will in order to balance in a moving vehicle. The height of each level of a double-decker trailer is too low for horses to raise their heads.

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.

Sec. 6606

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
section (d).

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


  1. Good grief. Where is the common sense in our government? It seems like a no-brainer to have legislation prohibiting double-deckers, something that tall with that much moving weight doesn’t say “safe”, no matter the environment it’s driving through. The past speaks for itself.

  2. Double deck trailers were not designed for horse whether they are heading for slaughter or not. It is like trying to but a 6 ft person in a three foot car. Government interference usually just makes one disagreement into a huge debate. Where is the common sens?

  3. Oh my gosh!!! The way people just don’t care about animals mekes me want to smack then in the face and say “wake up, are you blind!!!” I really truly hope this gets passed!!! It would make a good difference! Double deckers are not safe for any animal let alone a horse with their height, weight, delicate bones and systems!!!

  4. double Decker transportation for horse transportation in our country is just another crooked political issue and subjects a horse to terrible misery and pain for hours. Seems there is just to much not being done due to crooked politicians. Just like the thousands of protected mustamgs that a certain so call political sent off to man who was going to provide them with a GOOD HOME.We do not need anymore suffering in our animals for the gain of crooked politician.What has our country come to. Don’t believe me just go to Mercy for animals see how our milk cows are tortured. and calves are killed by hammers. Come on Congress this is not what our country was about. Clean up America, you have the reins now so do it


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