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Federal Legislation on Slaughter Horses Introduced in Senate


Senator John Ensign (R-NV) has introduced the Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1915) in the Senate to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  Co-sponsors include Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Trent Lott (R-MS), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).  The bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.


Bill Amends the Horse Protection Act


The legislation is a companion bill to the House bill (H.R. 503).  Like the House measure, the bill would amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which was enacted in 1970 to prohibit the showing, sale, or transporting for show or sale, of horses that have been subjected to a painful process known as “soring” to accentuate their gait.  The Animal & Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces the HPA. 


The legislation provides that Congress finds, among other things, that:


  • Horses play a vital role in the collective experience of the U.S. and deserve protection and compassion;
  • Horses are domestic animals that are used primarily for recreation, pleasure, and sport;
  • Individuals selling horses or other equines at auctions are seldom aware that the animals may be bought for the purpose of being slaughtered for human consumption.


Prohibitions and Penalties in the Bill


The bill would amend the HPA to prohibit “the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of any horse or other equines to be for slaughter for human consumption.”  Such activities would be made a violation of the HPA and subject individuals to penalties of up to $3,000 and/or one year in jail for the first offense and up to $5,000 and/or two years in jail for a second offense.  An offender may also be subject to civil penalties of $2,000 for each violation.


The legislation also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to “detain for examination, testing, or the taking of evidence” any horse which the Secretary has “probable cause to believe is being shipped, transported, moved, delivered, received, possessed, purchased, sold, or donated in violation of” the prohibitions.


The bill authorizes $5 million for enforcement of the Act.

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