Bill Introduced to Prohibit Interstate Transport of Vulnerable Livestock and Improve Travel Conditions for Others

Cows during transport
Photo by We Animals Media

Washington, DC—Today, US Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced the Humane Transport of Farmed Animals Act to improve conditions for livestock transported across the United States. The bill would require federal officials to develop a process to enforce the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, which stipulates that animals traveling at least 28 hours be offloaded for food, water, and rest. Importantly, this legislation also would prohibit interstate transport of livestock considered unfit for travel.

“Inadequate enforcement of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, coupled with the continued interstate transport of animals unfit to travel, is contributing to needless animal suffering and endangering the health and safety of millions of animals — and humans,” said Susan Millward, executive director and chief executive officer at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “Passing the Humane Transport of Farmed Animals Act is the bare minimum Congress can do to help ensure that animals healthy enough to travel are not deprived of basic protections, and that ill or otherwise impaired animals are not forced to endure grueling journeys that further compromise their health and welfare.”

Currently, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law is the only source of protection — albeit minimal — for animals transported long distances. However, the statute is not actively enforced. In fact, from 2006 to 2021, the USDA made only 12 inquiries into possible violations of the law, only one of which was referred to the Department of Justice, according to an AWI analysis of public records. This blatant lack of oversight is alarming, given that millions of animals are transported around the country each year.

Under current US live animal export regulations, animals intended for export to other countries must pass an inspection demonstrating that they are sound, healthy, and fit to travel. These regulations were adopted in 2016, after AWI petitioned the USDA to stop allowing exports of animals who were too young, weak, or sick to travel. Unfortunately, no such requirements exist for farmed animals transported long distances across the United States.

The Humane Transport of Farmed Animals Act would amend the federal Animal Health Protection Act to mirror fitness criteria governing US live animal exports, and those of the World Organisation for Animal Health — the leading international authority on the health and welfare of animals.

Under these criteria, animals unfit for travel include livestock who are sick, injured, disabled, or unable to stand; newborns with unhealed navels; and mature females close to giving birth or who recently gave birth.

Transport is extremely stressful for livestock. In addition to the vibrations, noise, fumes, and unfamiliar environment, transported animals often experience prolonged food and water deprivation, intense crowding, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and physical strain and injuries from rough handling and having to balance in a moving truck. These stressors also lower an animal’s resistance to infection; consequently, transport stress also contributes to the spread of disease (including zoonotic diseases that can jump to humans), and meat contamination.

Very young animals and cull animals (those removed from a herd and sent to slaughter due to age, illness, or other infirmity affecting productivity) are at particularly high risk of infection, injury, and death from long-distance transport. Yet the dairy industry regularly sends hundreds of thousands of calves under 3 weeks of age on journeys of 1,000 miles or more.

“Not only do lax federal regulations on farm animal transportation create inhumane and cruel conditions, but these inefficiencies in the law are also causing many animals to succumb to disease and injury during these long journeys which can be passed on to humans,” Titus said. “By raising fit-for-travel standards in addition to creating mechanisms to actively enforce the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, we can tackle this persistent issue in our food chain while protecting the lives of these animals.”

Last month, AWI petitioned the USDA to prohibit the interstate shipment of newborn calves and other animals who are sick, injured, or disabled; to require veterinary inspection certificates for interstate travel of these vulnerable animals; and to establish penalties for violating the rules. In the petition, AWI cited its analysis of transport records from seven of the country’s top 10 dairy producing states, and results from an investigation last year that tracked a shipment of 200 newborn calves on a 1,113-mile transport from a mega-dairy in Minnesota to a calf ranch in New Mexico.

Eleven hours into the trip, investigators observed calves — many with their shriveled umbilical cords still attached — bellowing and stepping on one another in the crowded trailer as the outside temperature climbed to 100 degrees. By the end of the 19-hour journey, the calves still had not received any milk or water.    

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
(202) 446-2128, [email protected]

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere: in agriculture, in commerce, in our communities, in research, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.