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USDA Adopts Rules Regulating Transport of Horses to Slaughter Facility



Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has adopted the final rules regulating the transport of horses to slaughter facilities. “We are pleased that the rules regulating the shipment of horses to facilities where they are processed for food have finally ben adopted. The industry supported the legislation passed in 1996 that gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate this activity,” said American Horse Council President Jay Hickey. “We also support the regulations.”

The new rules subject the commercial transportation of these horses to federal regulation for the first time. Under the new requirements, which will be enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shippers must provide horses with water, food, and rest for 6 hours prior to being loaded for transport. Once loaded horses cannot be shipped for longer than 28 hours without being off-loaded for 6 hours and given the chance to rest, eat and drink. While in transport, horses must be checked at least every 6 hours to ensure that no horse has fallen or otherwise become physically distressed in route.

Trucks used to transport horses to processing facilities must allow for the segregation of stallions and aggressive horses from others, provide enough room for the well-being of the horses during transport and be equipped with doors and ramps that allow safe loading and unloading.

The new rules prohibit the transport of horses under six months, horses that are severaly sick or injured or blind in both eyes.

Prior to loading, the owner/shipper must sign a USDA certificate, called a “backtag” attesting to each horse’s fitness to travel. This USDA certificate must accompany each horse to the facility. It includes such information as the name and address of the owner/shipper; a description of the vehicle; a description of the horse, including sex, coloring, distinguishing marks, permanent brands, electronic identification; the date, time, and place that the equine was loaded on the vehicle; and a statement that the horse was provided access to food, water and rest prior to being loaded.

The regulations authorize a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation. Each equine transported in violation of the regulations will be considered a separate violation.

“These regulations will primarily affect the owner/shippers of these horses and the horses themselves, of course,” said Hickey. USDA plans on preparing educational material so that participants in the business will understand their responsibilities. “We believe that these regulations will provide additional and needed protections for the horses and certainly this is positive. The legislation and the regulations also give the USDA the authority to impose substantial fines on anyone violating them,” said Hickey.

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