Until this past year the United States Department of Agriculture interpreted the federal Twenty Eight Hour Law, 49 USCS § 80502, so that most farm animals did not receive the protections of this law, the nation’s first federal humane law.
Under the law animals must be humanely offloaded after 28 hours in transit on a “common carrier”, “vessel transporting animals”, or “vehicle”. The animals can then eat, drink and rest for at least five hours.
There are limited exceptions to the Twenty Eight Hour law for accidental or unavoidable causes. Also permission may be granted for confinement up to 36 hours.
Sheep may be confined for an additional eight hours if the twenty eight hour period ends at night.
The USDA decided for decades to pretend a “truck transport”is not included in the definition of “common carrier”, “vessel transporting animals” or “vehicle”.
Because most farm animals are transported by truck, the USDA did not enforce the Twenty Eight Hour Law to protect them. The livestock industry lobbied heavily against any change in this policy.
In the past year the USDA finally agreed to what seemed common sense: a truck is a vehicle, or, for that matter, a “common carrier”or “vessel transporting animals”. The USDA concluded that “[w]e agree that the plain meaning of the statutory term ‘vehicle’ in the Twenty-Eight Hour Law includes ‘trucks’ which operate as express carriers or common carriers.”
More than 50 million farm animals each year will hopefully now receive the benefit of the law.