Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Confusion over double Decker trailers

I know there is some confusion over the use of double decker and/or modified double decker trailers to transport horses. I found this article that may clear up some of the confusion. It was written in January 2007, so while not really new, it is accurate. I hope it will help clear up the confusion as to why we are still seeing double decker trailers on the road when, even if they are modified, it is forbidden by federal law.

Equine Protection Network
January 2, 2007
Ban on Double Deck Trailers

Many people are confused or misinformed about the laws concerning the
use of double deck trailers to transport horses. Here is copy of a
letter the Equine Protection Network sent to Horse Illustrated
regarding the issue after the January issue mistakenly stated that as
of December 7, 2006 it would be illegal to transport horses in double
deck trailers in the United States:

As of December 7, 2006 the federal law, The Commercial Transportation
of Horses to Slaughter Act of 1996, applies only to horses
transported directly to slaughter and does not apply to rodeo stock
contractors and low end dealers. Killer buyers and rodeo stock
contractors have been successfully prosecuted under the Pennsylvania
Horse Transport Law, which unlike the federal regulations, applies to
all horses no matter what their final destination and has criminal
penalties that can be enforced by police.

Under the federal law the dealers such as the Ramey's who had a wreck
in Indiana in 2004 that killed more than 20 horses would not be in
violation. Nor would the drivers for Three Hills Rodeo transporting
36 horses in two double deck trailers from a rodeo in Pennsylvania to
a rodeo in the Midwest, and convicted under the Pennsylvania Horse
Transport Law.

It is imperative that readers understand that the Commercial
Transportation of Horses to Slaughter Act is nothing more than
a "paper tiger" that legalized every inhumane practice identified in
the transport of horses to slaughter and put the very people
identified as the abusers and in some cases convicted of cruelty to
horses, in charge of the horse's welfare!

Under the federal regulations the enforcement will occur only at the
slaughterhouse, not during the trip and not at holding facilities or
collection points. The law has civil penalties; not criminal meaning
it cannot be enforced by police departments, points which the Equine
Protection Network and others voiced strong opposition to during the
public comment period when the Federal Regulations were being

An example of the federal regulations not applying to horses being
collected for slaughter comes from a state Department of Agriculture
records and a lack of owner shipper certificates from the USDA.
According to records a licensed dealer in a Midwest state purchases
between 2500-3000 horses a year for slaughter. Documentation proves
that a double deck trailer is used to transport the horses. According
to Freedom of Information Act requests from USDA for Owner Shipper
Certificates for horses leaving this state, none exist for this
shipper of slaughter horses because he is not shipping them directly
to slaughter, rather to holding facilities.

Killer buyers, low end dealers, and rodeo stock contractors all claim
that their trailers have been modified and are safe for horses.
According to the USDA it is neither safe nor humane to haul horses in
a conveyance of more than one level even if modified. If the USDA has
outlawed doubles for slaughter horses, and realizing that a slaughter
horse become a slaughter horse by the fall of the gavel, why then are
these inhumane trailers still legal in almost every state?

At 3 AM on the interstate when you spot a double with horses there is
no one you can call to report the violation under the federal
regulations. USDA is not open 24/7, they only enforce at the
slaughterhouse and according to one state police agency the USDA has
indicated they will not respond if called by the police. First time
offenders under New York and Pennsylvania state law forfeited the
horses involved and paid fines exceeding $5000.00. In contrast the
USDA gave first time offenders a verbal warning.

The horses are counting on the public to keep their eyes open for
double deck trailers transporting horses in Pennsylvania, New York,
Vermont and Massachusetts which prohibit their use for all horses no
matter their final destination. The horses need the public to push
for passage of state laws with specific language such as the
Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law that "prohibits the use of any
vehicle that has more than one level stacked on top of each other to
transport any equine animal." The Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law is
the strongest law of its kind in the United States, and one of
s strongest criminal laws.

Opposition will come from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association,
PRCA, The Animal Welfare Institute (Note: I am not sure why AWI is listed here, they provided commented during the public comment period in support of strengthening the law to further protect horses. I am sure they would support any law to protect horses during transport), and state horse councils, even
though the USDA has stated that, "even if modified, double deck
trailers cannot be made humane for horses." Be prepared to be urged
to accept vague, performance based language such as, "hold their head
upright in a normal manner above their withers" or language that
includes "slaughter horses"

Connecticut, Virginia, and Minnesota regulate the use of double deck
trailers to transport horses, in other words if the trailer meets
certain requirements it can be used. Arizona regulates double deck
trailers only for slaughter horses. Any time a law requires law
enforcement to determine the destination of the cargo, a loophole big
enough to drive a double deck trailer is created and the law is
rarely, if ever, successfully prosecuted.

Vague language is nothing more than a publicity victory for
politicians and fundraising opportunities for organizations. There
will never be a police officer that pulls a double deck truck over in
the middle of the night on an interstate so they can crawl up the
side of the trailer attempting to photograph the dark interior to
determine whether or not the horses are, "holding their head upright
in a normal manner above their withers." No driver will admit a
destination of slaughter if it guarantees him a ticket to court, he
is "just moving horses".

The details of this subject require more space than this letter
permits, please if you want to make a difference for horses
transported in double decker trailers, visit the Equine Protection
Network's website's Transport section at:

Christine Berry
Equine Protection Network

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