Rhode Island Bans Use of Double Decked Trailers to Haul Horses

Double decked trailer overturnsUpdate July 10, 2008: Rhode Island’s bill, S. 2566, a ban on use of double decked trailers to haul horses, has now become law.

The new law is simple, straightforward and should be easy to enforce.

It simply but clearly bans use of any vehicle with two or more levels to transport horses. Violators face fines up to $500 per animal for a first offense and $1000 for second and subsequent violations.

The USDA has issued a regulation banning the use of double decked trailers. 9 CFR 88.3  Double decked trailers have been banned in Pennsylvania, 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511(e)(E.1); Massachusetts, ALM GL ch. 129, § 46, and New York, NY CLS Agr & M § 359-a, as a means of hauling horses; they have been banned in California, Cal Pen Code § 597o, and Arizona, A.R.S. § 3-1312, § 28-912, when used for hauling horses to slaughter. In Vermont double decked trailers are banned when hauling more than 7 horses. Vermont.
13 V.S.A. § 387.

The trailers are allowed but their use is regulated in Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-415, Conn. State Agencies § 22-415-2-3; Virginia, 2 VAC 5-160-10, et seq., Minnesota, Minn. Stat. § 346.38 and Maryland, Md. Agriculture Code §3-902. Enforcement of these laws, however, often requires testimony from experts. 

Double decked trailers can have ceiling heights as low as 5’7". (The industry standard for vehicles to transport horses is 7′-8′). The bottom deck of a double decked trailer has 3" I Beams every 12" on center to support the top deck.

Steep and narrow ramps with metal floors cause the horses to slip and fall, causing injuries. Horses are forced to jump down into a narrow opening leading to the bottom deck; they are often injured as a result. 

Because of the low ceiling heights horses cannot raise and lower their heads and necks for balance. Horses routinely throw their heads and rear, unlike cattle, hogs, goats or sheep for which these double decked trailers are designed.  Horses suffer head and back injuries because of the low ceiling height, the 3" I beams, and overhead ramp storage.

There have been a number of accidents involving over full double decked trailers.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has said studies suggest "there are  increased rates of injury associated with the use of double-decked conveyances for transporting horses."  According to the AVMA, "sources, such as the National Agriculture Safety Database and various manufacturers producing trailers specifically for horse transport recommend heights of 7 to 8 ft as being necessary for the safe and comfortable transport of horses (i.e., adequate headroom for the horses to stand comfortably with their heads in normal position); it appears difficult, if not impossible, to meet such recommendations via the use of currently configured double-deck trailers, particularly for taller horses."

For more on double decked trailers used to haul horses to slaughter, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.

Original report: Double decked trailerLike Illinois, Rhode Island is considering a bill that would ban the transport of horses in double decked trailers.  But the committee considering the bill, the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, has decided to hold the bill, S. 2566, for further study.

Under this bill a violation on the first offense would be a fine of $500 per animal and $1000 per animal for second and subsequent offenses.   

Click here for a copy of the bill.

These double decked trailers are used to haul horses to Mexico or Canada to slaughter. The horses suffer terribly during these transports. The horses are crowded into these trailers in which they can’t even raise their heads at all or stand comfortably. They are held on these trailers in this way for more than 24 hours at a time without food or water. Many suffer serious injuries during these arduous journeys to slaughter and are trampled and even killed.

The USDA has issued a regulation banning the use of double decked trailers. 9 CFR 88.3 But the USDA has said it does not have the resources to enforce the regulation, giving the industry a virtual green light to continue using double decked trailers to haul horses to slaughter.  It is important for the states to take action to stop this.  

Click here for more on the Illinois bill to ban use of double decked trailers to haul horses.

What You Can Do

Write or call members of the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, listed below, and urge them to vote yes on S. 2566.  

Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture




  Senator Kevin A. Breene



  Senator Walter S. Felag Jr.



  Senator June N. Gibbs



  Senator J. Michael Lenihan



  Senator John F. McBurney III



  Senator Michael J. McCaffrey



  Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis

  Vice Chairperson


  Senator V. Susan Sosnowski



  Senator William A. Walaska




Clerk: Maria DeCastro

Phone: 276-5560


Also, contact Rhode Island state senators and urge them to vote to ban the use in the state of double decked trailers to haul horses. Click here to find Rhode Island state senators.