USDA Adopts Rules Regulating Transport of Horse to Slaughter Facility

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has adopted the final rules regulating the transport of horses to slaughter facilities. 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 six 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 six hours to ensure that no horse has fallen or otherwise become physically distressed in route.

"These regulations will primarily affect the owner/shippers of these horses and the horses themselves, of course," said American Horse Council president Jay Hickey.

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 severely sick or injured or blind in both eyes.

Prior to loading, the new 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.